x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

At least five dead as 250,000 rally across Syria

Human rights activists say security forces fired nail bombs to disperse nti-regime protesters in Douma, a restive suburb of Damascus.

NICOSIA // More than 250,000 people rallied across the Syrian region of Idlib on Friday as security forces shot dead at least five demonstrators and fired nail bombs at a crowd elsewhere, a watchdog said.

The anti-regime protests in the flashpoint northwestern province of Idlib came after the main weekly Muslim prayers, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said in a statement sent to AFP in Nicosia.

“More than 250,000 people protested across Idlib province in 74 locations after Friday prayers,” said the Britain-based group.

“The largest rally was in Idlib city, Banash, Ariha, Sarakeb, Maaret al-Numan, and Khan Sheikhun... among others,” it added.

In the restive Damascus suburb of Douma, security forces fired nail bombs at tens of thousands of protesters, and demonstrators retaliated by throwing stones, said the Observatory.

The use of nail bombs could not be independently verified.

“An activist in the city told the Observatory that he was hurt by shrapnel from those bombs,” the watchdog said a statement.

The Observatory said that demonstrators “hurled stones” at the security forces in the vicinity of city hall when they fired stun grenades and tear gas at them.

According to the Observatory, up to 70,000 Syrians had flooded the streets of Douma and were heading to the city hall building when the confrontations broke out.

“Between 60,000 and 70,000 demonstrators are heading to city hall,” it said, adding that this was “the biggest ever demonstration” to take place in the restive suburb north of Damascus since March.

Meanwhile some 15,000 people had gathered outside the Grand Mosque in Douma, where 30,000 people had rallied on Thursday.

Security forces killed four people and wounded several others on Thursday when they fired on protesters outside the mosque as Arab League observers arrived at city hall.

In Damascus, security forces fired live ammunition on people emerging from the Al-Akhrass mosque on Friday in Al-Kaddam neighbourhood.

Huge protests were also being held across the central city of Homs on Friday, notably in the Al-Khalidiyeh neighbourhood where thousands staged a sit-in for a third consecutive day.

Regime forces shot dead at least five people at a protest in Daraa, where 17 people were arrested in different parts of the southern town.

“So far, at least five civilians were martyred when security forces opened fire on protesters in the city of Daraa,” said the Observatory.

Daraa is the cradle of the unprecedented nine-month protest movement against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, which has ruled Syria with an iron fist for 11 years.

Security forces also fired live rounds on protesters in the eastern oil hub of Deir Ezzor.