BANIAS, Syria, May 3 (UPI) -- Thousands of anti-Syrian government protesters waved pieces of bread in Banias Tuesday in apparent support of compatriots in Daraa, videos showed.
The Los Angeles Times reported the video, titled "Raise the bread to lift the siege of Daraa," showed the protesters demanding an end to the authoritarian rule of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
The BBC reported the Syrian military had surrounded the coastal city of Banias, just as they had Daraa in the south.
Government forces have arrested at least 1,000 people, and rights groups say at least 550 people have been killed nationwide since demonstrations against the Assad regime started March 15, the British network said.
"The Syrian authorities sent military reinforcements and thugs to the areas in the city center [including the main market]," a young protest organizer from Banias told the BBC. "The city is facing militias from the east and military forces from the south and north sides."
A man who fled Daraa for Damascus told the BBC the military has taken over Daraa's hospitals.
"The army is occupying the hospital. They are arresting everyone there -- the injured, the wounded," he said. "The only hospitals people can use now are on the outskirts or the smaller hospitals in neighboring villages."
The government maintains the demonstrators are criminals and has called for them to surrender to authorities by May 15.
The state-run news agency SANA reported government officials said armed militants had opened fire on people randomly Monday in Salamya, Hama province. The news agency said police and security personnel had engaged in gun battles with militants.
Syrian TV Monday broadcast what it said was a confession by Ibrahim Nayef al-Masalmeh, who was labeled a member of a terrorist group in Daraa, to killing and terrorizing people in the city.