Six more killed in Syria protests

Forces fire on mourners during mass funerals; two lawmakers resign

Up in arms: Syrian anti-government protesters hold a bloodied national flag during a funeral procession for slain activists in Douma on Saturday. AP

Witnesses and rights campaigners said security forces killed three people in Damascus’s Barzah district and a further three when they fired at mourners trying to join funerals near Izra’a in southern Syria, where at least 12 burials were taking place. The mourners were chanting “Bashar al-Assad, you traitor! Long live Syria, down with Bashar!”

“There was a heavy volley of gunfire in our direction as we approached Izra’a to join the funerals of martyrs,” a witness from the southern city of Deraa who came to join the burials told Reuters. Security forces also opened fire at a funeral in Damascus’s Douma suburb, wounding three people, witnesses there said.

Mourners in Harasta, a town near Damascus, also came under fire from security forces, before staging a sit-in to demand the release of detainees arrested in the last few weeks.

Protesters staged another sit-in after a funeral for four people from Irbeen, near Damascus. “We are not leaving until the political prisoners are released,” one protester said.

Friday was by far the bloodiest day in over a month of demonstrations to demand political freedoms and an end to corruption, with at least 100 people killed, said two activists.

Friday’s violence, in areas stretching from the port city of Latakia to Homs, Hama, Damascus and the southern village of Izra’a, brings the death toll to more than 300, according to activists, since unrest broke out on March 18 in Deraa. Damascus remained tense on Saturday and many people stayed indoors. “This is becoming like a snowball and getting bigger and bigger every week. Anger is rising, the street is boiling,” one activist said.

Two Syrian lawmakers, both from Deraa, told al-Jazeera television they were resigning from parliament in protest at the killing of demonstrators. Theirs were the first resignations from within Assad’s autocratic regime.

“Security solutions do not work,” said lawmaker Khalil al-Rifaei. Syrian parliament is effectively appointed by the authorities. Resignations were unheard of before the protests.

Crackdown condemned

US President Barack Obama condemned Friday’s violence and accused Assad of seeking help from Iran. A Syrian government source said in a statement published on official state media Obama’s statement “was not based on objective vision.”

“This outrageous use of violence to quell protests must come to an end now,” Obama said. “Instead of listening to their own people, Assad is blaming outsiders while seeking Iranian assistance in repressing Syria’s citizens,” he said.

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