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Unrest Ripples Across Troubled Middle East


A tank is seen in the Syrian port city of Banias April 10, 2011

A tank is seen in the Syrian port city of Banias April 10, 2011

Tensions continue to mount in a number of Syrian cities after violent crackdowns against anti-government protesters. Witnesses say government forces have surrounded the town of Banias, and clashes have been reported in several nearby villages. Unrest also continued Tuesday in Yemen, Bahrain, and Algeria.

Protesters in the Syrian town of Palmyra chanted slogans against the government as they buried a young man killed during recent unrest. The footage on a Facebook support group claims the young man was an army soldier who was shot for refusing orders to fire on protesters.

Eyewitnesses also report that Syrian tanks have sealed off the coastal town of Banias, scene of violent sectarian clashes in recent days. One man told the French news agency that security forces were "firing indiscriminately" at the nearby town of Baida, with "gunfire as intense as rain."

Banias is the hometown of former Syrian Vice President Abdel Helim Khaddam. He fled Syria several years ago for Europe, where he leads an anti-government umbrella group.

Human Rights Watch, meanwhile, is blaming the Syrian government for denying medical care to wounded protesters.

Nadim Houry of the group's Beirut office says rights workers spoke to at least 20 eyewitnesses who insist that security forces have prevented doctors and medics from treating wounded protesters:

"Security forces were preventing medical personnel from reaching the wounded, either by firing at anyone who would get closer to the wounded protesters or by preventing ambulances from reaching areas where people were wounded or even detaining wounded protesters as the arrived to hospitals. That has led many of the doctors to treat the wounded protesters either in private homes or in actual mosques," he said.

Houry says that conditions in the flashpoint city of Daraa were so primitive that doctors "used a spoon to determine the position of a bullet on one patient."

The editor of Syria’s official government daily Al Thawra told al-Jazeera television that the foreign press was "exaggerating the scope of violence inside Syria." Syria has prevented most foreign journalists from visiting strife-torn areas and expelled many from the country.

In the Yemeni capital, Sana'a, and other cities, tens of thousands of protesters rallied to denounce a Gulf Cooperation Council mediation plan that calls for President Ali Abdullah Saleh to hand over power to his vice president. The protesters complain that the plan gives President Saleh immunity from prosecution.

Elsewhere, thousands of student protesters rallied in the Algerian capital, Algiers, to demand the resignation of the country’s education minister.

Thousands of students in Algeria have marched toward the presidential palace in the capital, Algiers, where they were confronted by security forces.
News reports say the students clashed with security forces in front of the presidential palace.

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