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Syrian Troops Arrest Hundreds in Daraa


In this citizen journalism image made on a mobile phone and acquired by the AP, taken on Saturday, April 30, 2011, Syrian anti-government protesters carry candles during a night gathering in the coastal city of Banias, Syria

In this citizen journalism image made on a mobile phone and acquired by the AP, taken on Saturday, April 30, 2011, Syrian anti-government protesters carry candles during a night gathering in the coastal city of Banias, Syria

Witnesses say authorities in Syria have arrested hundreds of people - many of them in the flashpoint city of Daraa - as troops backed armored vehicles roam the streets trying to crush protests against President Bashar al-Assad.

Residents in Daraa say Syrian security forces are detaining all males 15 and older in that southern city - the center of the six-week uprising. They say troops have systematically cut off neighborhoods while making sweeping arrests. Prominent lawyers and activists also are reported being targeted in Daraa.

Witnesses say new military reinforcements entered the city Sunday, joining thousands who already were there. Fuel, water, power and communications have been severely disrupted in Daraa for six days. Food is said to be scarce.

Nearly all foreign media have been banned from Syria, making it almost impossible to confirm the reports.

Syrian activists say six people were killed in Daraa Saturday when the military and snipers opened fire on civilians. Activists say a woman and her two daughters were among those killed when a tank shell hit their home.

Tanks also shelled the city's old quarter and security forces stormed the Omari Mosque, where anti-government protesters had been gathering.

On Friday, activists and witnesses said at least 65 people were killed when government forces moved to suppress opposition protests across Syria. The majority of those deaths were reported in Daraa.

In another development in the Daraa region, 138 more members of Mr. Assad's Ba'ath party resigned in protest against the government crackdown. Several hundred others resigned earlier.

Syrian rights groups say at least 560 civilians have been killed by the country's security forces since anti-government protests erupted six weeks ago.

Prime Minister Adel Safar announced plans for more reforms on Saturday, in an apparent bid to appease opposition activists. Earlier this month, Mr. Assad lifted the country's almost 50-year-old emergency law, but then he unleashed the military's brutal crackdown.

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