Watchman Newsletter

Syrian Unrest Escalates, Spreads to Jordan

The Israel Project (Link) - AP (March 25, 2011)

Syrian Police killed at least 20 people Friday after new protests in the southern Syrian city of Daraa erupted, as thousands took to the streets to denounce President Bashar Assad�s regime and urge the retaking of the Golan Heights from Israel.

Witnesses said people were hit by live gunfire after crowds, who had marched from a nearby village into Daraa, set fire to a statue of former President Hafez Assad, the father of the current president.

Daraa has been the epicenter of anti-government protests for the past week. Syrian security forces killed four demonstrators on Friday, and another demonstrator was killed on Sunday. On Monday, an 11-year-old boy died after inhaling tear gas.

Meanwhile, in Jordan, almost 1,000 protesters established a tent camp in central Amman Thursday, pledging to stay until their demands for greater democracy and less corruption were met. Pro-government demonstrators, who assembled nearby, reportedly tried to disrupt the protest, injuring six.

Syrian security forces loyal to Assad killed dozens, possibly hundreds, two days earlier in Daraa during massive protests, news agencies reported. More than 100 were killed, Daraa-based human rights activist Ayman al-Assad said Thursday. Police killed the protesters after security forces attempted to storm a Daraa mosque while hundreds of citizens tried to stop them.

In funerals later that day, security forces used live ammunition to kill more demonstrators. The deaths Wednesday represented the bloodiest aftermath yet in the increasingly bold demonstrations in southern Syria.

On Thursday, more than 20,000 had people gathered for a funeral procession for those killed, a gathering saturated with anti-regime sentiment. Mourners chanted �God, Syria, freedom. The blood of martyrs is not spilt in waste.�

Several casualty figures were given, with opposition figures claiming that more than 100 were killed; government sources said just 10 died in the protests. News agencies reported that 15-17 were killed Thursday.

Hundreds also assembled Friday in the capital Damascus in a rare show of unity for the Daraa protests.

A top Syrian official called the protesters� demands �legitimate� and President Assad promised to increase civil service pay as well as consider democratic reforms. The protesters dismissed the gestures as meaningless.

The initial protests were spurred by the arrest of dozens of Daraa schoolchildren who last week scribbled anti-regime graffiti on local buildings.

Assad said in January that his country was �immune� from the unrest sweeping the Arab world and that he was united with Syrians against Israel. Syrian democracy activists have said that such claims can no longer protect an oppressive, autocratic regime.

A Facebook group known as The Syria Revolution 2011, with almost 75,000 fans, is calling for rallies at mosques across Syria Friday as part of a �Day of Dignity.� �