April 24, 2011 in Nation/World

Syrian forces open fire on processions

Bassem Mroue And Elizabeth A. Kennedy Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

In this photo taken on a mobile phone and acquired by the Associated Press, Syrian anti-government protesters march in a funeral procession for slain activists in Izraa, Syria, on Saturday.
(Full-size photo)

BEIRUT, Lebanon – Syrian security forces fired on funeral processions that drew tens of thousands Saturday, one day after the bloodiest crackdown so far in the uprising against President Bashar Assad. The shootings pushed the two-day death toll to more than 120, and two lawmakers and a religious leader resigned in disgust over the killings.

The resignations were a possible sign of cracks developing in the regime’s base in a nation where nearly all opposition figures have been either jailed or exiled during the 40-year dynasty of the Assad family.

“I cannot tolerate the blood of our innocent sons and children being shed,” Sheikh Rizq Abdul-Rahim Abazeid told the Associated Press after stepping down from his post as the mufti of the Daraa region in southern Syria.

The lawmakers, Nasser Hariri and Khalil Rifai, also are from Daraa, which has become the epicenter of the protest movement after a group of teenagers was arrested there for scrawling anti-regime graffiti on a wall in mid-March.

Since then, the relentless crackdown on demonstrations has only served to invigorate protesters whose rage over the bloodshed has all but eclipsed their earlier demands for modest reforms. Now, many are seeking Assad’s downfall.

Each Friday, growing numbers of people in cities across the country have taken to the streets despite swift attacks from security forces and shadowy pro-government gunmen known as “shabiha.”

Ammar Qurabi, the head of Syria’s National Organization for Human Rights, said 112 people were killed Friday and at least 11 on Saturday. Friday was by far the deadliest day of the uprising, with security forces beating back protesters with bullets, tear gas and stun guns.

“If I cannot protect the chests of my people from these treacherous strikes, then there is no meaning for me to stay in the People’s Assembly. I declare my resignation,” Hariri told Al-Jazeera in a televised interview.

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