Huge demo in Syria's Hama on 'Children's Friday'

AFP , Friday 3 Jun 2011

Rights group says 50,000 take to the streets in Hama, Syria, and face intense fire by regime forces

n this citizen journalism image made on a mobile phone and provided by Shaam News Network, taken on Friday, May 27, 2011 and made available May 29, Syrian anti-regime protesters carry national flags during a rally in Talbiseh, in the central province of Homs, Syria, (AP).

More than 50,000 Syrian demonstrators on Friday flooded the streets of the central city of Hama, where security forces opened fire in a bid to disperse the anti-regime rally, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. Activists had called for protests over the dozens of children killed in anti-government protests.

Near the southern protest hub of Daraa, security forces opened fire to disperse a crowd in Jassem, a rights activist told AFP, as protesters also gathered in nearby Dal and in Kurdish towns of northern Syria.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said security forces shot in the air as more than 50,000 demonstrators flooded the streets of Hama, in central Syria.
Overnight, in several cities including Aleppo in the north and Deir Ezzor in eastern Syria residents took to rooftops to chant "God is Greatest," said the group's head, Rami Abdel Rahman.

A government crackdown which is now focused on the flashpoint Homs region has left at least 75 civilians and military personnel dead since Sunday, according to Abdel Rahman.

Syrian state television on Friday broadcast the testimonies of three suspected members of an "an armed criminal group" who said they had "killed demonstrators and security agents" in Homs.

Al-Baath newspaper, viewed as the mouthpiece of the Baath party which has ruled Syria since 1963, quoted the men as saying they had "cut roads" and "burnt public buildings" in exchange for money and guns.

Residents, meanwhile, said Internet lines were cut in Damascus and the coastal city of Latakia on Friday, in a repeat of a suspension of services at the start of April.
Syrian activists called the latest protests over the dozens of children killed in anti-government protests such as 13-year-old Hamza al-Khatib whom activists say was tortured to death, a charge denied by the authorities.

"The people want the fall of the regime. Tomorrow, it's 'Children's Friday' of rising up against injustice, like the adults," the activists announced on their Facebook page Syrian Revolution 2011, an engine of the uprising.

The UN children's agency UNICEF says at least 30 children have been shot dead in the revolt against Assad's autocratic rule that erupted in mid-March.
The more than 10-week-old revolt in Syria was sparked by the arrest and torture of 15 children and adolescents accused of painting anti-regime graffiti in the southern town of Daraa, which became a flashpoint of the deadly protests.

"A photo of a child who is dead or being tortured or being mutilated is much more powerful than of an adult," said UNICEF spokesman Patrick McCormick, referring to the Facebook campaign focused on the fate of Hamza.
More than 1,100 civilians have been killed and at least 10,000 arrested in a brutal crackdown on almost daily anti-regime demonstrations in Syria since March 15, human rights organisations say.

The government insists the unrest in Syria is the work of "armed terrorist gangs" backed by Islamists and foreign agitators.
Snubbing government concessions that included the release of some political prisoners and a call for a national dialogue, opposition groups at a meeting in Turkey demanded late Thursday for Assad's "immediate resignation."

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