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Death toll climbs as Syrian protesters come under fire

Anti-government activists say extensive protests on the last day of fasting during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan were met by assaults from security forces using machine guns, artillery and other weapons.

August 30, 2011|By Roula Hajjar | Los Angeles Times
  • Syrians living in Jordan shout slogans against Syrian President Bashar Assad after morning prayers on the first day of Eid Al-Fitr outside the Syrian Embassy in Amman.
Syrians living in Jordan shout slogans against Syrian President Bashar… (Ali Jarekji / Reuters )

Reporting from Beirut — Syrian security forces reportedly shot and killed at least six people in the southern city of Dara and in the central city of Homs on Tuesday, a day of extensive protests against President Bashar Assad on the Eid al-Fitr, the last day of fasting during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

According to activists inside Syria, the death toll between Monday afternoon and Tuesday afternoon stood at 23, including 17 killed on Monday.

Protests also broke out in the commercial city of Aleppo, which has largely remained on the sidelines during the country's five months of uprisings, the greatest challenge to four decades of rule by the Assad family. Hundreds of residents protested in the Aleppo suburbs of Tal Rifaat, al-Baba and al-Atarib.

Activists have intensified protests in the last days of Ramadan, hoping to force an end to Assad's regime. Demonstrators say security forces have responded with assaults using machine guns, artillery and other weapons.

"Tanks have taken over our city, and security forces have opened fire on us as we left the mosques after morning prayers,'' said Omar, a 23-year-old in the Heet neighborhood of Homs.

"In the months we have been protesting, I have never seen such defiance on the part of the people, and such brutality on the part of the regime," Omar said. He spoke on condition he not be identified further, for fear of retaliation by government forces.

Several protesters were injured in Homs as security gunmen targeted "heads and chests," said Majd, 45, a legal activist in the city. "It is a miracle more haven't died until now."

Videos on the Internet showed protesters in the northern province of Idlib and the Damascus suburbs of Amouda, Qaboun and the Midan.

"The best gift this Eid would be the end of the regime. This has been a hard month marked by a bloody Eid. This day is supposed to be a happy day, an important time of celebration. For us, it is a time when we ask God to assist us in our righteous revolution," said Abu Youssef, a resident of Lattakia who also spoke on condition he not be identified further.

The intensified violence comes a day after the European Union took preliminary steps to ban oil imports from Syria in response to government attacks that the United Nations says has killed more than 2,200 people.

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