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Syrian Troops Arrest Hundreds in Daraa

Syrian protester holds up a sign as she takes part in a protest calling for Syria's President Bashar al-Assad to step down, in front of the Syrian embassy in Amman, May 1, 2011

Syria's state news agency says security forces have arrested nearly 500 people and killed 10 others, as witnesses in the city of Daraa said troops backed by armored vehicles roamed the streets trying to crush protests against President Bashar al-Assad.

Residents in Daraa said Syrian security forces are detaining all males 15 and older in the southern city, which has been the center of the six-week uprising. They say troops have systematically sealed off neighborhoods while making 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 independently confirm the reports.

Meanwhile, state media said Monday the Interior Ministry issued a statement calling on all those who committed illegal acts to turn themselves in by May 15. The statement said those who go to authorities and turn in their weapons will be exempted from punishment.

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, Assad lifted the country's almost 50-year-old emergency law, but then he unleashed the military's brutal crackdown

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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