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Death Toll from Violence in Northwest Syria Rises to 35


An image grab taken from YouTube shows Syrian anti-regime protesters marching during a rally in the northeastern city of Kafr Nabl, June 3, 2011

An image grab taken from YouTube shows Syrian anti-regime protesters marching during a rally in the northeastern city of Kafr Nabl, June 3, 2011

Syrian rights groups say the death toll in a two-day government crackdown on protesters in the northwest has risen to 35 as exiled opposition figures called for the isolation of President Bashar al-Assad.

The violent clashes began Saturday and continued into Sunday, after thousands of residents turned out for the funerals of other anti-government protesters killed in the crackdown. The updated casualty count includes six members of the Syrian security forces killed during operations in the towns of Jisr al-Shughour and nearby Khan Sheikhoun.

Residents and activists said the Syrian military withdrew Sunday from the central city of Hama and from southern villages but that the situation in those areas remains tense.

Rights campaigners say at least 65 people died Friday, mostly in Hama. Witnesses say security forces used live ammunition to disperse tens of thousands of protesters who took to the streets after Friday prayers, demanding Mr. Assad's resignation.

The reports cannot be independently confirmed as the Syrian government has severely restricted the media and expelled foreign reporters, making it nearly impossible to verify events on the ground.

At a meeting of Syria's mostly expatriate opposition in Brussels Sunday, leaders renewed calls on foreign governments and the United Nations to increase pressure on Mr. Assad. Opposition leaders also said they are working to compile legal cases against the Syrian government in several U.S. and European courts and the International Criminal Court in the Hague.

The United States and the European Union have already imposed sanctions on Mr. Assad and his inner circle.

Syrian activists have been protesting almost daily since March for democratic reforms and an end to President Assad's 11-year rule.

Rights groups say at least 1,100 people have been killed in the continuing crackdown and more than 10,000 arrested.

Despite official denials, protest organizers say at least 25 children are among the dead. The victims include a 13-year-old boy who was reported to have been tortured and killed by security forces, an accusation Syrian authorities dispute.

Opposition groups have issued calls to denounce the growing number of casualties among children in recent weeks. But the central neighborhoods of the capital, Damascus, and most of Syria's second city, Aleppo, have remained largely quiet as authorities tighten security there.

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