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SYRIA: Death toll climbs as protesters celebrate Muslim holiday

August 30, 2011 |  2:35 am

At least six people were reportedly killed early Tuesday in Syria's southern city of Daraa and central city of Homs, as protesters took to the streets in defiance of the regime of Bashar Assad on the first day of Eid al-Fitr, the last day of fasting during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. 

According to activists inside Syria, the death toll in the last 24 hours has risen to 23, 17 of whom were killed on Monday by security forces loyal to Assad. 

Protests also broke out in the large industrial city of Aleppo, which has largely remained on the sidelines during a 5-month-old uprising that has posed the greatest threat to the Assad regime in four decades. Hundreds of residents in Tal Rifaat, al-Baba and al-Atarib took to the streets in a show of their holiday spirit. 

"God, you are the powerful and we are the weak, so fill the weak with your will, oh powerful one," a speaker yells from behind a large Syrian flag in Tal Rifaat, Aleppo, in a video of the demonstration posted on YouTube. 

"Save us," he cries, his voice cracking over the speakerphone. 

"We swear to God, the mighty one, that we will continue our uprising, and that I will never give up until victory or martyrdom," hundreds of assembled protesters respond, their hands solemnly held towards the skies. 

The Eid, a two-day holiday, has given protesters renewed hope in bringing down the regime despite increasingly bloody crackdowns by security forces in the past two days.

Protester in Aleppo
"Tanks have taken over our city and security forces have opened fire on us as we left the mosques after morning prayers, said Omar, 23, in Homs.

"In the months we have been protesting I have never seen such defiance on the part of the people, and such brutality on the part of the regime," he said.

Several protesters have been severely injured in Homs as security forces target "heads and chests," said Majd, 45, a legal activist in Homs.

"It is a miracle more haven't died till now."

Other videos posted online show protests in Idleb and in areas in and around Damascus, including Amouda, Qaboun and the Midan. 

"The best gift this Eid would be the end of the regime. This has been a hard month marked by a bloody Eid. This day is supposed to be a happy day, an important time of celebration. For us it is a time when we ask God to assist us in our righteous revolution," said a resident in Lattakia who goes by the honorific Abou Youssef.

Lattakia was the scene of one of the uprising's most brutal crackdowns, when security forces rounded up hundreds of residents of the al-Riml area and led them into sports stadiums after confiscating their IDs in August. 

Renewed bloodshed comes day after the European Union moved to ban oil imports from Syria, as the UN reports more than 2000 have died during the regime's crackdown on dissent. 

-- Roula Hajjar in Beirut

Video: Images said to be recorded Tuesday show protesters rallying in Aleppo on the first day of the Muslim Eid al-Fitr. Credit: YouTube

Photo: A protester said to be photographed in Aleppo carries a poster that says, "Oh Muslims, where are you with what is happening in Syria?" Credit: YouTube

 

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