Syria death toll rises as city is placed under siege
At least 48 people have been killed in Syria by the security forces in the last four days, local and international human rights activists have told Amnesty International, as the crackdown on the coastal city of Banias intensified. More than 350 people – including 48 women and a 10-year-old child – are also said to have been arrested in the Banias area over the past three days with scores being detained at a local football pitch. Among those rounded up were at least three doctors and 11 injured people taken from a hospital.“Killings of protesters are spiralling out of control in Syria – President Bashar al-Assad must order his security forces to stop the carnage immediately,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.Amnesty International has compiled the names of 28 people who were apparently shot dead by security forces on Friday and those of 12 others killed over the last three days.The organization now has the names of 580 protesters and others killed since mid-March, when protests against the government of President Bashar al-Assad began. The 28 people killed on Friday include at least nine in Homs, six in Hama, four in Latakia, four in Dayr al-Zor, three in Dera’a, one in Idleb and one in Damascus. Multiple sources told Amnesty International that on Saturday, security forces shot dead four women – Leila Taha, Ahlam Hwaysqeh, Marwa ‘Abbas and Leila Sahiouni – who were protesting on the road from Banias to the village of al-Marqab to call for the release of those detained by security forces. Yesterday, information received indicates that two people were shot dead by snipers in the southern town of Tafas – Abu Gharib al-Ridawi and the wife of the lawyer Faysal al-Zu’bi. Three people were also shot dead in Homs, including Muhammad Ahmed Muhammad and ‘Abd al-Hadi al-Shimali. A further two unarmed demonstrators were reported killed in Dayr al-Zor and one in the village of Jisr Shahour. In addition, an 11-year-old boy, Qassem Zuheyr al-Ahmed, was killed last night in Homs. The Syrian security forces have placed Banias and other cities under siege. In Banias, water, electricity and telecommunications have been cut off and a Syrian human rights activist told Amnesty International that on Monday morning there were at least 30 tanks on the city’s streets. On Saturday, tanks in Banias fired shells from Ibn Khaldun Street into the residential area of Ras al-Naba’. Four people were killed in the city that day. Snipers have been positioned on the roofs of buildings and yesterday reportedly shot dead Wa’el Bkour and Ahmed Qouqour. Tanks have also entered Syria’s third-largest city, Homs, and the Mu’dhamiyeh suburb of Damascus, as well as Tafas. Today in Dera’a, Waleed Hamed Ta’m Allah Abazeid was reported to have been shot dead. The Syrian government continues to attribute killings to “terrorist armed gangs” conspiring against it. The Syrian State News Agency, SANA, said that yesterday a minibus carrying civilians was ambushed near Homs by an “armed terrorist gang”, resulting in the deaths of 10 workers. One Syrian human rights activist told Amnesty International, however, that the minibus had been shot at by security forces manning a checkpoint. Amnesty International has not been allowed access to the country and can not verify the conflicting reports. “The Syrian authorities are tightening the vice on residents of cities around Syria, punishing whole populations in their attempt to stamp out opposition,” said Philip Luther. “These draconian measures must come to an end – Syrians must be allowed to protest without fear of deadly violence being used against them, and the authorities must restore water, electricity and phone lines.” Syrian security forces arrested at least several hundred over the weekend, adding to the hundreds, or possibly even thousands, already held – mostly in incommunicado detention - since protests began. “The Syrian authorities must release those protesters being held across the country for peacefully calling for reform,” said Philip Luther. “Many are held without charge, have not had access to lawyers or family members and their wellbeing is in danger.”.