More deaths reported as Syrian security forces mount crackdown in cities


Syrian security forces have killed 47 people when they stormed cities across the country looking for army defectors and seeking toprevent the breakout of mass protests following the weekly Friday prayers, the revolution commission said.

At least six people were killed in the flashpoint city of Hama when troops and security forces raided the town.

“They raided Hilfaya at 6:30 a.m. (0330 GMT), with troops and security police descending from buses and trucks equipped with machine guns,” one of the activists told Reuters by telephone.

“They stayed for two hours, firing at random to frighten the inhabitants. Among the six who were killed were two cousins from the al-Jammal family who were on their way to Hilfaya from the nearby village of Taybeh,” the activist said.

Tanks head to Idlib

Several tanks and troop transports were heading on Friday for the northwest town of Maaret al-Numan in Idlib province, AFP reported the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights as saying.

“Tanks, personnel carriers and trucks full of soldiers were seen on Friday morning heading towards Maaret al-Numan,” the Britain-based rights group quoted the activists as saying.

It said operations by Syrian security forces in Idlib on Thursday resulted in the deaths of two people and 73 arrests; another nine people were missing.

Elsewhere, communications were still cut on Friday in the town of Zabadani, some 30 miles (50 kilometers) northwest of Damascus. One man has been reported killed and 153 people arrested there since Tuesday.

Activists said protests took place late on Thursday in the cities of Homs and Hama, as well as in the Damascus area.

U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon called on Thursday for “coherent” global action on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s deadly crackdown on dissent.

Ban said of Assad that “when he has not been keeping his promises, enough is enough and the international community should really take coherent measures and speak in one voice.”

The U.N. chief has had several telephone conversations with Assad since the protests erupted on March 15, during which the president repeatedly promised to end the bloody crackdown and institute political reforms.

Activists urged protests to take to the streets again on Friday, the Muslim day of weekly prayer, when demonstrations tend to be the heaviest, for rallies under the slogan “we advance toward the fall of the regime.”

“Six months. More than ever determined to continue the March 15 uprising,” activists wrote on a Facebook page, The Syrian Revolution 2011, one of the main engines of the revolt.

Syrian National Council

On Thursday, Syrian opposition activists meeting in Istanbul announced the formation of a unified Syrian National Council to provide support for the uprising and a basis for discussions with the international community.

Separately, a secular Syrian opposition movement is holding a conference in Paris on Saturday and Sunday with activists, academics and writers to discuss the uprising, according to Reuters.

Paris is pushing for a U.N. Security Council resolution laying out sanctions against Syria and condemning the use of violence against civilians, with some 2,600 people estimated to have died in one of the most violent crackdowns of the “Arab Spring” protests sweeping the Middle East and North Africa.

The international community has condemned the Syrian government’s bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protests yet has bemoaned the lack of a unified opposition it could talk to.

With members drawn from Syria’s various political, religious and ethnic groups, the NSC aims to fill that gap.

France was the first foreign power to formally recognize the interim council set up by Libyan rebels, but it said it was too early to do the same for the Syrians.

Members of the NSC will be at this weekend’s Paris meeting of the Coalition of Secular and Democratic Syrians, which will discuss issues such as the risk of the rise of Islamic fundamentalist groups in a transitional Syria.

“We’re not against the council, but we have our own proposals of what should happen in Syria,” Randa Kassis, one of the organizers of the two-day conference told Reuters.