BBC | July 29, 2011
Tens of thousands of Syrians have again turned out for Friday protests against the rule of President Bashar al-Assad. Troops fired live ammunition and tear gas at protesters, killing two people and wounding dozens, activists said.
There have been reports of fighting in the eastern city of Deir al-Zour between military intelligence agents and residents after five protesters were killed overnight.
Earlier, state media said a blast hit an oil pipeline near the city of Homs. The attack was the second of its kind this month. State news agency Sana called the explosion a terrorist attack by a group of “saboteurs”. But activists told the BBC they did not have the capability to carry out such an attack.
Protest organisers say that this week’s demonstrations are aimed at other Arab countries under the slogan, “Your silence is killing us”.
Human rights groups said that troops opened fire on protesters in the Mediterranean city of Latakia, killing at least one protester and that another person was killed during a protest in the southern city of Deraa – where the protests first erupted in mid-March.
Heavily armed troops backed by armoured vehicles pushed back protesters in the coastal town of Baniyas and fired tear gas in several other locations, the AP news agency said, citing local activists. There were also marches in the countryside around Damascus despite an intense crackdown there, it added.
The reports are difficult to verify as few foreign reporters have been allowed into the country.
Syrian forces are trying to quell the unrest ahead of Ramadan, which starts this weekend, activists say.
Last night, security forces shot dead three civilians in Deir al-Zour and two in a Damascus suburb, near the town of Zabadani, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The demonstrations have been met by a fierce crackdown that has killed more than 1,500 civilians and seen 26,000 people arrested. More than 12,600 are still in detention, the Avaaz rights group says, and 3,000
others are missing, with family members unable to establish if they are still alive.
The governor of Homs, Syria’s third largest city, said many residents heard the pipeline explosion at around 0400 (0100 GMT). “This terrorist operation, a subversive operation of the highest order, took place in a farming area, causing extensive damage,” Ghassan al-Adel told Sana. The blast left a crater 15m (50ft) wide and oil gushing from the broken pipe, the Sana news agency said.
Two weeks ago, on 13 July, a fire damaged a gas pipeline near the town of Mayadin in the country’s main oil and gas-producing region of Deir al-Zour province, activists said at the time.
Oil production in Syria stands at about 350,000 barrels per day, according to official data. It is a key source of income for the yrian economy, hard hit by more than four months of unrest.