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SYRIA: Eight reported killed on 'Homeland Protector Friday'

Picture 4 Syrian security forces opened fire on anti- government protesters in several cities and arrested demonstrators on "Homeland Protector Friday," a day on which activists had called on the Syrian army to stand with the people, according to activist accounts.

A Damascus-based human rights lawyer told Babylon & Beyond that eight people had been killed by security forces:  three during  demonstrations in Qatana, which is about 20 miles from Damascus; one in the town of Zabadani near the Lebanese border; and four in the town of town of Dael near the besieged southern town of Deraa.

The human rights lawyer said security forces had used live ammunition at demonstrations on Friday in the Sunni stronghold city of Homs in central Syria, in the area of Marqeb in the coastal city of Baniyas, and in Zabadani.

An eyewitness in Homs told The Times there was a heavy security presence there and that security forces in civilian clothes had fired at demonstrators. More than 2,000 people were protesting, he said.

"The regime must go -- there is no other way out," the witness said.

The killings in Dael reportedly occurred hours before the rallies erupted. Security forces opened fire on men standing on rooftops and chanting "God is Great."

Activist accounts said that the Syrian army had imposed a curfew in Dael and that pro-regime anthems were being blasted on the loudspeakers of the town’s mosques.

Demonstrations against the rule of President Bashar Assad broke out across Syria after the weekly Muslim prayer, including in areas near the country's second-largest city, Aleppo; in Idleb in the country's northwest; in the central city of Hama; and in Deir Zur in the northeast, where security forces also fired live ammunition at demonstrators, according to activist accounts on social media sites on the Internet.

In the mainly Kurdish city of Qamishli in the country's northwest, demonstrators carried banners saying "the army and the people are one hand" and "homeland protector Friday" while chanting "the people want to topple the regime," according to video footage posted on the Internet.

As in previous weeks, residents of several of Damascus’ suburbs took to the streets in anti-government rallies, including in Barze and in the district of Medan, where thousands of people demonstrated and security forces arrested at least 20 protesters, according to activist accounts. Arrests were also reported to be underway in areas near Aleppo after security forces broke up protests there.

Syrian activists had called on the Syrian army to unite with the people in Friday's protests and show that it's a "patriotic army" that protects the people. 

"It is the day asking the soldiers to join the people," said a statement from Syrian activists. "During today's demonstrations chants will be heard that the army and the people are one. The protesters demand to their army that they should follow the lead of the Tunisian and Egyptian armies and defend the people against a group of mercenaries fighting for the regime."

Aside from the Syrian regime, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah apparently also attracted anger from protesters on Friday. In the town of Albu Kamal near the Iraqi border, demonstrators burned pictures of him. On Wednesday, Nasrallah gave a speech in which he called for Syrians to stand by the Damascus regime, activist reports said.

Demonstrators started preparing for Friday's protests on Thursday night, according to video footage on the Internet. In one video, filmed in Qabon on Thursday night, a crowd of demonstrators were seen marching down what appeared to be an alley waving Syrian flags and calling for the downfall of the regime.

The Assad regime has come under international sanctions. On Friday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy called on the Syrian ruler to lead transition to democracy or step down. 

--Alexandra Sandels in Beirut

Photo: Demonstrators in the mainly Kurdish city of Qamishli in Syria's northwest hold a banner saying "army and people are one" in a protest on Friday. Credit: YouTube

SYRIA: Momentum builds ahead of anticipated Friday protests

Picture 2

Syrians took to the streets once again Wednesday in mass protests across the country calling for unity among citizens and the downfall of the regime, building momentum for anticipated nationwide demonstrations Friday.

It's part of a bid to put more pressure on Syrian ruler President Bashar Assad, who has recently come under international sanctions for Syria's brutal crackdown on protesters.

No demonstrators were reported killed in Wednesday's rallies, but Syrian state media claimed three security forces were killed in Homs by armed terrorists.

The fresh rallies came as protesters gear up for planned demonstrations Friday under the slogan of the "Friday of home defenders," according to the activist site The Syrian Revolution 2011 on Facebook,  a clearinghouse for information on the uprising.

Continue reading »

SYRIA: A nation reels from a day of violence [Videos]

Syrian activists upped the death toll from Friday's anti-government protests to 44 after a day of widespread clamoring for the downfall of President Bashar Assad. 

Security forces clamped down on protesters with gunfire and tear gas in several Syrian cities and towns after the weekly Muslim prayers.Syria-assad-hanging

But ordinary Syrians also had their say. In the video above, taken in the town of Talbeseh near Homs, people hang Assad in effigy, voicing their hatred for a regime that has killed up to 1,000 people in nine weeks of protest. 

Most of the dead came from the western province of Idlib and Homs in the central parts of the country, according to media reports.

But demonstrations erupted all over Syria on Friday: in Damascus, Homs, Hama, Dara, Baniyas, Idlib and other parts of the country on a day described as a Friday of Azadi (Friday of Freedom).

“It is no longer a question of whether Assad should step down, but rather of how and when,” said Rami Nakhla, a Syrian human rights activist. “Assad had the chance to make reforms and stay in power. By killing more than 1,000 peaceful demonstrators since the beginning of the Syrian protest, this is no longer a reasonable option.”

Separately, the European Union is reportedly planning to follow the U.S. lead and impose sanctions that directly target Assad. France hopes that EU foreign ministers will agree Monday on extending sanctions to the Syrian president, Reuters reports.

Here's a rundown of some of the protest activity around the country:

Damascus: Government agents gathered inside and outside a mosque in the neighborhood of Medan, in the center of the city, to prevent demonstrations, according to one activist...

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OMAN: Army descends on protest camp, arrests demonstrators

Picture 3 The soldiers moved in on the protest camp as night fell over the southern Omani city of Salalah, the country's second largest, dispersing demonstrators demanding higher salaries and more jobs and possibly arresting scores before dismantling the tents they had pitched there in February, according to Arab media reports.

The clampdown started on Thursday night when the army began firing shots in the air and tear gas shells to clear out protesters who had been camping outside the local governor's office.

Clashes between security forces and protesters and arrests were said to have continued on Friday and overnight until Saturday morning, according to amateur video footage posted to the Internet and media reports. Some reports said that some of those arrested had subsequently been released from detainment.

"Security forces used their batons and took away protesters in three army buses," a witness told the Reuters news agency.

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SYRIA: Video shows protests throughout the country after Friday prayers

Picture 3 Braving chilly winds, gray skies and President Bashar Assad's security forces, protesters poured into the streets of Syria on Friday, calling for freedom, an end to a military siege on Syrian cities and, in some cases, the downfall of the Assad regime, according to amateur video posted to the Internet.

Several protests were reported to have broken out around mosques in and near the capital, Damascus. In the clip below, which is said to have been filmed near a mosque in the Damascus district of Zahirah on Friday, people are seen running down a street, some covering their faces with scarves and clothing in an apparent attempt to deal with tear gas.


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SYRIA: Videos show large student protest in Aleppo, the second largest city



They came in the thousands, according to activists and video posted to the Internet, gathering on a university campus in the country's second largest city, Aleppo, on Wednesday night. They called for freedom. They were met with the truncheons of a brutal police state. 

According to a Syrian activist website on Facebook, around 6,000 people took part in a rally at Aleppo University where crowds called for freedom. Other reports said protesters also chanted in solidarity with the besieged Syrian cities of Dara, Homs and Baniyas.

The video footage above, said to have been shot at Wednesday night's rally, shows a large crowd chanting and clapping inside what appears to be a university campus as cars passing on the other side of the gates honk loudly.

Below, in a clip claimed to have been filmed at the same rally, crowds are shouting "God is Great" and chanting their support for Dara.

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SYRIA: Amateur video said to show government agents crushing protest


Fresh amateur video footage posted to the Internet claims to show pro-government agents in civilian clothes breaking up a peaceful sit-in in the Syrian capital on Monday, hauling demonstrators into a van.

The dramatic clip, claimed to have been filmed in Damascus' Arnoos Square, shows crowds of men and women sitting in a street, chanting and clapping their hands. Activists say 250 people turned out for the sit-in during which rally-goers chanted, "The Syrian people are not divided by sectarian issues," "Stop the gunfire" and "Stop the siege on our cities."

At one point, the crowd gets up and starts marching down a street as curious passersby look on, prompting what are said to be plainclothes security officers to show up at the scene and take action.

Timeline: Uprising in Syria

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SYRIA: Mourners coming under fire by President Bashar Assad's gunmen [Video] [UPDATED]


More amateur video footage has emerged from Saturday's violence in the Damascus suburb of Barze and posted to the Internet. In the clip above, what appears to be gunmen are seen mounted on top of a moving white pick up truck pointing fire in random directions while the sounds of heavy gunfire ring out in the background. The voice talking in what seems to be loudspeakers from a nearby mosque is asking the security to stop shooting, but the gunfire continues.


A day after security forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad shot dead scores of protesters, mourners for the people killed in Friday's bloody demonstrations were shot at by security forces during politically charged mass funeral marches on Saturday, according to fresh amateur video footage posted to the Internet.

The video above is said to show mourners coming under fire by security forces at a funeral procession in the Damascus suburb of Barze. The clip shows a crowd running and ducking for cover as gunfire rings out around them.

Continue reading »

SYRIA: Videos claim to show snipers shooting at demonstrators, scenes of tumult at Friday's protests


More video footage from Friday's protests in Syria have emerged and some of the clips claim to show disturbing scenes of unknown assailants opening fire on demonstrators and chaos in the streets.

The video above is said to show snipers shooting at protesters from rooftops in Syria during demonstrations. Crowds are heard shouting and screaming as shots ring out around them. At one point the camera closes in on a man positioned atop a building, purportedly a sniper.


Here, a video said to have been filmed in the Damascus suburb of Duma on Friday shows a crowd of people running down a street amid a hail of shots.


A video from the city of Homs purportedly filmed on Friday depicts chaos and tumult in the streets. A cloud of white smoke is seen plummeting to the sky at one point in the clip and men are seen carrying people laying in the streets.

--Alexandra Sandels in Beirut

Video credit: YouTube

ISRAEL: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on YouTube


Like U.S. President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took the hot seat on YouTube's World View, and questions from around the world.

In a special broadcast paired with Israel's Channel 2 news, Netanyahu answered questions from Israelis before switching to English to answer questions from 90 countries around the world, including many throughout the Middle East.

Israelis were concerned about a host of local issues, including recent allegations that he accepted private funding for public travel (which Netanyahu dismissed as a slander campaign), and the decline in stature and caliber of Israel's political leaders, once modest -- frugal, even -- and far flashier today.  Citizens asked about Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier held captive in the Gaza Strip for five years, about Israel's response to recent rocket attacks on its south and how approving settlement construction after the murders in Itamar would help matters.

Israel's policies, the peace process and regional upheaval were on everyone's mind. Will you negotiate returning the Golan Heights to Syria? Whose side do you take in the recent eruptions throughout the Middle East? Is Israel a strategic asset or liability to the U.S.? And why is Avigdor Lieberman the foreign minister?

Check out the video ( or view it at this link) for more questions and Netanyahu's answers.


-- Batsheva Sobelman in Jerusalem.



SYRIA: Facebook group calls for uprisings all over Syria on Saturday

Picture 4 A Facebook group that has been calling for protests in Syria posted calls for new "popular uprisings" in all cities in the country Saturday, a day after Syrian troops reportedly opened fire on peaceful protesters at demonstrations.

"Today Saturday ... popular uprisings in all Syrian governorates," read a posting on the 86,000-fan-strong Syria Revolution 2011 page on the social networking site.

The call immediately drew many "likes" and more than 750 comments.

The group has been posting graphic video footage that claims to show brutality and horror at recent protests in Syria, as well as updates on demonstrations and unrest. The group says its main goal is "freedom in Syria" and demands the end of the state of emergency, eradication of poverty and unemployment, and changes in the constitution that would transition Syria into a "pluralistic democratic country."

Media reports quoting an unnamed Syrian official said at least 13 people were killed Friday in clashes between security forces and demonstrators. Activists put the toll at 25.

-- Alexandra Sandels in Beirut



LEBANON: Amateur video footage appears to show spontaneous dance party at Beirut airport


Forget the long boring waits and your average airport experience. At Beirut's Rafic Hariri International Airport, it's apparently a party. The airport sprang to life a couple of days ago when travelers and members of the airport staff all of a sudden joined hands and started dancing to traditional Arabic music and modern tunes in the airport hall, according to amateur video footage posted on YouTube.

"Beirut's Rafic Hariri Intl. Airport came to life when I saw employees, security staff and passengers of all ages dancing to a mix of Lebanese folk & modern dance music! Gotta love the Lebanese spirit!," said a description of the video.

In the clip, said to have been filmed at the airport on March 5, some people are also seen pulling what appears to be break dance moves and doing cartwheels on the floor as more and more bystanders join the dancing crowd.

Talking about spicing up your airport experience.

--Alexandra Sandels in Beirut

Video credit: YouTube


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