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SYRIA: Brutal crackdown ravages northern cities, brings several casualties

June 29, 2011 | 12:53 pm

Seven civilians were killed Wednesday as security forces stormed two northern towns in the larger governorate of Idlib, Agence France-Presse reported, citing a human rights activist. 

Ammar Qarabi, president of the Syrian National Human Rights Organization, told Reuters that Syrian security troops, still loyal to the Syrian President Bashar Assad, entered the town of Rama and used tank machine guns against civilians, killing four. 

Wissam Tarif, director of human rights organization INSAN, said "a military operation" was going on in Idlib and that the army entered three more towns early  in the morning.

The northern town of Jabal Zawiya along the Syrian-Turkish border -- one of the first towns to participate in the months-long uprising against the 11-year rule of Bashar Assad --  also was the scene of nighttime security crackdowns.

"All of this violence comes a day after the regime said they would invite political opponents to discuss a framework for political reform in July. We do not accept invitations from murderers," said a member of the Syrian Local Coordination Committee, the uprising's main activist group, who preferred to remain anonymous.

Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told AFP that soldiers were deployed in the villages to conduct house raids. 

The Local Coordination Committees reported Wednesday that Syrian security forces also launched attacks on schools and universities breaking for the annual summer vacation.

Amateur footage posted on the Internet allegedly shows high school students protesting in the towns of Saqba, Homs, Madaya, Dara and Deir Ezzor on Wednesday demanding the overthrow of the regime.

In the video posted above, senior high school students take to the streets in Saqba.

"Leave us alone, we don't like you," they chanted, addressing the Syrian president. One banner in the large crowds reads, "Death rather than humiliation."

The Syrian official state news agency, SANA, reported "scores" of protesters from the  General Union of Arab Students gathered in front of U.N.'s  Damascus headquarters to "condemn" Western interference in the nation's internal affairs.

The uprising has dealt a damaging blow to the Syrian economy. The Syrian pound has fallen 15% in three months, Reuters reported Wednesday. Diplomats and businessmen reported that the staggering economy may be what makes or breaks Assad's chances for political survival. 

-- Roula Hajjar in Beirut

Video: High school seniors take to the streets in Saqba demanding the overthrow of the Syrian regime. Credit: YouTube.  

 

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