Conflict & Justice

Hundreds arrested as Syria steps up military crackdown (UPDATES)


Protestors hit posters of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad (R) and Liya's Colonel Gadaffi with shoes during a demonstration outside the Syrian embassy in London on May 7, 2011. The demonstration was called to show support for the uprising in Libya, Syria, Bahrain and Yemen


Leon Neal

Syria has intensified a violent military crackdown on anti-government protesters, amid reports that heavy gunfire was heard in a Damascus suburb Monday morning after the army had blocked off the area.

Raids by security forces cities across the country also led to hundreds of arrests and the killing of six members of the army, according to activists and state media.

The arrests were made in raids on houses in in the coastal city of Banias, central Homs, eastern Hama and suburbs of the capital Damascus, DPA reports.

The western suburb of Muadhamiya was cut off by troops, and shooting could be heard, the BBC reports, citing human rights activists in the area. As with other cities under crackdown, electricity, water and telephone lines had been cut.

Foreign journalists are not allowed into Syria, so reports are difficult to independently verify. Many journalists have relied on accounts from activists inside Syria, but communication lines including satellite phones have increasingly been disrupted, The New York Times reports.

More security forces were reportedly seen moving into the central city of Homs, where machine gunfire and shelling has been heard since troops began raiding homes and arresting people late Saturday night. Fourteen people have been killed in Homs, including a 12-year-old boy, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Syrian state media said that an “armed gang” had ambushed and killed 10 laborers that were returning from Lebanon on the Damascus-Homs highway. Syrian authorities have often referred to those taking part in the protests as "armed terrorist groups."

On Saturday, six protesters, including four women, were shot and killed in the port city of Banias, and 200 people were arrested, including a 10-year-old child, according to human rights groups. There were also reports of tanks rolling into the southern town of Tafas, near Deraa, and troops detaining residents.

In Deraa, where the uprising began in mid-March, residents were briefly allowed to leave their homes before a curfew was imposed.

Human rights groups believe that as many as 600 people have been killed in Syria since protests against the 11-year rule of President Bashar al-Assad began in March, and that at least 8,000 people are detained or missing. The Syrian army has vowed to hunt down and those who oppose Assad.