Protesters outside of the governor's office in the Syrian province Sweida called for the removal of President Bashar al-Assad before the demonstration turned violent on Sunday. Photo courtesy of EPA/SANA HANDOUT
Dec. 4 (UPI) -- Two people are dead and at least seven more are wounded after a clash between pro-democracy protesters and law enforcement officers at a government building in Syria's Sweida province.
An anti-government protest broke out Sunday with dozens of citizens gathering outside the governor's office to voice their frustrations about the country's economy and President Bashar al-Assad's regime.
The demonstrators called for the removal of the president before storming the building. The conflict escalated from protesters throwing rocks at the building to Syrian security forces opening fire with live rounds.
Gunfire broke out from security forces when the demonstrators entered the building. At least one demonstrator was killed. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights one security officer was also killed.
Syrian government officials said some people who broke into the building were armed. They allegedly began to destroy furniture, break windows and steal files. The building was later set on fire and the governor's office was completely burnt from the inside, according to Rayan Maarouf, an activist and editor of Suwayda 24, a Syrian media group.
Syria has been in consistent internal conflict since protests started against al-Assad in 2011. His regime has been accused of corruption and the widespread poverty in Syria falls at his feet in the eyes of his critics.
Al-Assad responded to protests harshly, pledging to stamp it out with an "iron fist" according to BBC. This sparked an ongoing civil war. In 2013, government forces were accused of using chemical weapons against rebels. The United States, France and Britain warned they would step in with force but ultimately pushed for disarmament, which began in 2014.
In 2020, the United States imposed sanctions on Syria in an effort to compel al-Assad to end the violent conflict.
Sweida is located along the southern border near Jordan. Its population is largely Druze affiliated, a political and religious group that broke away from Islam in the 11th century.