Protesters in Syria commerce capital Aleppo urge Assad exit


Hundreds of protesters took to the streets of Syria’s second largest city Aleppo on Thursday, renewing calls for the departure of President Bashar Al Assad in a demonstration termed “The Aleppo Volcano.”

They through swept the streets shouting anti-Assad slogans, prompting security forces to use batons to disperse the crowds, activists said. Aleppo has traditionally been the industrial and commercial heart of Syria, and Thursday’s protests did not augur well for Mr. Assad.
Protests have been largely muted in Aleppo so far, but a Facebook group that has been a motor of the uprising urged Syrians to march on the city to demand the ouster of the 47-year-old President Assad.

“The Aleppo Volcano. The people want the fall of the regime,” pro-democracy activists said in a message posted on Facebook.

“Revolutionaries, come to Aleppo and Idleb provinces... and go to central Aleppo... to protest and to light the spark of the Revolution,” said the message.

“We don’t love you. We don’t love you. Go away, you and your party,” the message addressed to President Assad added.

The Syrian Revolution 2011 group also urged people to rally after weekly Muslim prayers on Friday, branding July 1 “the Friday of departure” and saying in a message to Mr. Assad: “We don’t love you... Go away, you and your party.”

The opposition also turned up the heat on the embattled Syrian president, announcing the creation of a “national coordination committee” comprising exiled dissidents and opponents at home to push for democratic reforms.

“A national coordination committee has been formed, seeking national and democratic change in Syria,” rights lawyer Hassan Abdel Azim told AFP.

The committee “has drafted a political document that has been sent to political parties and (opposition) figures for discussion and approval,” he said.

The announcement comes days after about 160 dissidents, several of whom have spent years in jail as political prisoners, gathered Monday at a Damascus hotel and vowed to press ahead with a peaceful uprising.

Troops meanwhile escalated a campaign to quash dissent in villages in the northwestern province of Idleb, killing more civilians, despite new US sanctions against key regime pillars and Syria’s top ally Iran.

At least 10 people were shot dead Wednesday when soldiers backed by tanks and armored personnel carriers swept into a cluster of villages, said the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The Observatory’s head, Rami Abdel Rahman, speaking to AFP in Nicosia, provided a list of names of 10 people killed in the district of Jabal al-Zawiyah, including Mar-Ayan, Al-Rami, Sarja and Kafr Haya.

The troops stormed Mar-Ayan and Ihsem villages on Wednesday, a day after tanks rumbled into Al-Rami, near the main road leading to Aleppo, activists said, adding at least seven people were killed in the operations.

The Observatory says 1,353 civilians have been killed since mid-March in a crackdown by Mr. Assad’s regime on the reformist movement and that 343 security force personnel have also died. Thousands have been arrested.

(Mustapha Ajbaili, a senior editor at Al Arabiya English, can be reached at [email protected])