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SYRIA: Activist killed about every hour over 11 days in crackdown

August 11, 2011 |  8:25 am

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At least one person has been killed by security forces in Syria about every hour during the first 11 days of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, according to new statistics by an activist group, the Local Coordinating Committees. 

The Syrian regime appears to be sticking to its guns and tanks, hammering away at its opponents across the country during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in a continued bloody crackdown of anti-government protesters, despite a torrent of regional and international criticism.

On Thursday, Syrian activist reports said Syrian army units along with pro-government enforcers stormed two opposition hot spots in the country ahead of anticipated nationwide anti-government rallies Friday.

They reportedly killed several people. Ramadan has been a bloody month in Syria so far with 257 Syrians killed by the army and security forces across the country, according to the Local Coordinating Committees.

The rate of a Syrian killed about every hour is conservative, the Local Coordinating Committees said. It did not include those killed in the recent army siege on Hama and Deir Alzour due to a state-imposed communications blackout in those cities, which made it difficult for the network to confirm casualty figures.

The violence against protesters showed no sign of letting up. Near the central city and protest hub of Homs, which has experienced a deadly army crackdown on some of its neighborhoods over the past few days, an activist in the town of Qusayr near the border with Lebanon told Agence France-Presse by telephone that tanks entered the town early Thursday and that five people had been killed.

"Residents fled into the fields and all communications have been cut with the town," the activist told the news agency, adding that Syrian security forces had killed five residents and wounded 10 others.

Up north, tanks backed by armored personnel vehicles stormed the town of Saraqeb in the northwestern province of Idlib bordering Turkey on Thursday morning, according to a statement from the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (link in Arabic).

The group said "heavy gunfire" could be heard in the town, which has experienced daily anti-government protests after the Muslim evening prayers during the month of Ramadan and that security forces were raiding houses of residents and rounding up scores of people, arresting at least 100.

The Local Coordination Committees sent out an urgent note Thursday morning saying that "explosions are heard on the eastern side of Saraqeb" as "security forces, military, and regime thugs storm the city....under heavy firing."

There were also activist reports about raids and arrests in areas near the eastern city of Deir Alzour on Thursday.

Meanwhile, heart-wrenching amateur video footage showing death and despair on the streets of Syria continue to emerge on the Internet on a daily basis. (Be advised that the imagery is very graphic.) One video that has been circulated and posted to YouTube purportedly shows a man being shot in the head by Assad's security forces at a small demonstration in Arbaeen near Damascus last week.

"The video proves the direct instructions the security has to shoot to kill," said U.S.-based Syrian activist Radzan Ziadeh in an email.

Another new clip said to have been filmed on Wednesday shows a disturbing scene in the town of Binnish in Idlib in which people behind the camera are trying to pull aside a man who's laying bloodied and motionless in a street-- using a long iron hook because security forces are purportedly firing at protesters. (Again, be advised that the imagery is graphic.)

However, the Syrian government's bloody campaign to root out dissent doesn't appear to have deterred anti-government rallies from taking place, now in their fifth month, and those organizing the protests.

On Thursday, a banner reading "We only kneel before God," appeared on the Syrian Revolution 2011 Facebook page, encouraging demonstrators to take to the streets of Syria again Friday in ritual protests after the main weekly Muslim prayer--as well as every day during Ramadan when mosque-going and thus protests have intensified in the country.

"Every day in Ramadan is a Friday," said the message.

-- Alexandra Sandels in Beirut

Photo and video credit: YouTube.