Activists in Syria say at least three people were killed Saturday when security forces fired on mourners holding funeral services for at least 44 people killed in Friday's protest demonstrations. Opposition websites are also claiming that medics were not allowed to treat the victims.
Meanwhile, in Yemen, embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh is saying once again that he will sign a Gulf Cooperation Council plan that paves the way for him to resign.
Funeral goers chanted slogans against the government in Syria’s third largest city of Homs Saturday, before security forces blocked their march with bloody volleys of live ammunition. An opposition group says on the social networking site Facebook that doctors and medics were not allowed to treat the victims.
Funeral processions were held in a number of towns and cities, including one in Kfar Roumie, to bury victims of Friday’s bloody crackdown on protesters who were demonstrating against President Bashar al-Assad's government. Ammar Qurabi of the National Organization of Human Rights in Syria confirms the high death toll from Friday's protests.
Videos were posted on Facebook of pro-government militiamen carrying clubs and beating protesters in Latakia, Banyas and Hama on Friday. One video showed government militiamen firing on residents of Homs as they tried to rescue a wounded man lying in the street.
Another video showed protesters tearing down a large billboard bearing the picture of President Assad in the city of Idlib. Elsewhere, al-Jazeera TV showed video of protesters setting fire to a ruling Ba'ath Party office near Latakia. It was not possible to verify the events, however, since foreign correspondents are not being allowed into Syria.
Syria’s official government daily Teshrine accused “armed groups of shooting and killing 17 civilians and members of the security forces.” It also claimed that members of a “terrorist cell confessed to carrying arms and a large quantity of explosives.”
Hilal Khashan, who teaches political science at the American University of Beirut, says that the Syrian government appears undeterred by U.S. and European Union condemnations or economic sanctions in continuing its bloody and brutal crackdown. "The number of demonstrators has declined, yet the number of casualties has increased, and that's very alarming, since it appears as if the regime in Damascus realizes that the outside world will not do anything, except to protest. The regime in Damascus feels that they have a free hand to crush the demonstrators, so I don't know where this is going," he said.
Khashan also pointed out that the anti-government protest movement appeared to be strongest in outlying regions of the country, while the two largest cities of Damascus and Aleppo remained mostly quiet. "So far it seems that protests in Syria are mainly inviting poor people. As long as it remains confined to the poor it will continue to be within the ability of the regime to contain it," he said.
Meanwhile, in Yemen, embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh addressed an army gathering Saturday to mark the 21st anniversary of the unification of the country. He called the ongoing protest movement against him a “coup”, but claimed that he would sign a Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) plan paving the way for him to step down.
The GCC indicated Saturday that its secretary general, Abdullatif al Zayani, was on his way back to Yemen. He left several days ago after the president balked at signing the plan to step down. Despite the news, security forces shot and wounded a number of protesters in Hodeida Saturday.