BBC News | June 24, 2011
At least 10 people are said to have died in renewed protests across Syria against President Bashar al-Assad.
Activists said security forces fired tear gas and bullets after Friday prayers in Damascus and elsewhere, but Syrian state TV blamed unidentified gunmen for some deaths.
Meanwhile, the EU has expanded sanctions against the Assad government.
It added three members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and four Syrians to a list of more than 30 people targeted.
More than 1,300 people have been killed and thousands more detained since a crackdown on anti-government protests began in March, activists say.
‘No longer my president’
As in previous weeks, activists had appealed to Syrians to join demonstrations after Friday prayers.
An appeal on Facebook listed a slogan for this week as: “Bashar is no longer my president and his government no longer represents me.”
The Arab Organization for Human Rights in Syria told the BBC five people were killed and others were injured as security forces opened fire with live ammunition on protesters leaving a mosque in Kiswah, south of Damascus.
Snipers shot dead at least three protesters in the capital’s Barzeh district, witnesses said.
But Syrian state TV blamed the deaths on unidentified gunmen who had opened fire on civilians and security force members, adding that several security personnel were among the wounded.
A further two demonstrators were reportedly shot dead by security forces in Homs.
Syria has prevented most foreign journalists from entering the country and reports of unrest are hard to verify.
The Local Coordination Committees, which monitor the Syrian protest movement, had earlier reported military trucks in Damascus suburbs, and said roads in the centre of Homs had been blocked.
Thousands of people were reported to have turned out in the Damascus suburb of Irbin, the central cities of Homs and Hama, Deraa in the south, and Qamishli and Deir al-Zour in the east.
The protests come after President Assad offered dialogue and reform on Monday, in his third address to the nation since the start of demonstrations.
Activists dismissed the offers as cosmetic or insufficient, and clashes broke out between supporters of President Assad and anti-government protesters on Tuesday.
Flight into Turkey
In the north, Syrian residents have continued to flee a widening crackdown by the army.
Turkish state media said more than 1,500 people crossed the border from Syria on Thursday after troops and tanks moved into the Syrian border village of Khirbet al-Jouz.
An elderly resident said only around 10 of the village’s 2,000 residents remained, while the rest had fled.
“There are military soldiers, tanks, security forces, thugs and snipers sitting on the roof tops of building in the village,” the resident told BBC Arabic. “They looted properties homes.”
“There is nothing here, they (Syrian authorities) said there are armed gangs and so on. Where are these armed gangs?.. Why don’t they show us just one person from these gangs?”
A total of 11,700 Syrian have sought refuge in Turkey, the Turkish government says.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the reported Syrian troop movements were “very worrisome”.
The EU has also drafted a declaration condemning the “unacceptable and shocking violence the Syrian regime continues to apply on its own citizens”.
EU leaders are expected to endorse the declaration later.
The EU’s official journal said the three Iranian Revolutionary Guard members now subject to sanctions had been “providing equipment and support to help the Syrian regime suppress protests in Syria”.
The Iranians added to the EU sanctions list were two Revolutionary Guard commanders, Maj Gen Qasem Soleimani and Brig Cmdr Mohammad Ali Jafari, and the Guard’s deputy commander for intelligence, Hossein Taeb.
They will now be subject to having their assets frozen and being banned from travel to the EU.
A UK foreign office official said the sanctions were imposed for the provision of “riot control equipment and technical advice from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps on how to quash dissent, for example, how to flood areas with security personnel”.
A foreign office spokesman told the BBC: “This sends a clear message to the government of Iran that its provision of equipment and technical advice to help the Syrian regime to quash protest is unacceptable.”