Syrian protesters call more demos despite crackdown

A Facebook group called for mass protests across Syria on Friday, piling pressure on President Bashar al-Assad’s regime as it faces international censure for violently crushing dissent.

“Friday of Anger, April 29, in solidarity with Daraa,” says a notice on the Syrian Revolution 2011 page of Facebook, a motor of the protests in which demonstrators inspired by uprisings elsewhere in the Arab world are seeking greater freedoms.

“To the youths of the revolution, tomorrow we will be in all the places, in all the streets … we will gather at the besieged towns, including with our brothers in Daraa,” said the statement posted online on Thursday. “We will not leave Daraa isolated,” it said, adding demonstrations would also be staged in other flashpoint towns such as Homs in the centre of the country and Banias in the northwest. Syria has been rocked since March 15 by increasingly strident pro-democracy demonstrations that have shaken Assad’s once uncontested rule.

The authorities have resorted to violence to crush the uprising, with human rights activists listing at least 453 civilians killed by security forces across Syria in the past few weeks.

On Monday, between 3,000 and 5,000 troops backed by tanks and snipers swept into Daraa, the epicentre of the protests 100 kilometres (62 miles) south of Damascus, and took over the town.

According to human rights activists, more than 30 people have been killed in the military assault on the agricultural town near the Jordanian border. Syria’s opposition has warned Assad that he would be toppled unless he ushered in democratic reforms, although the UN Security Council failed to agree on a condemnation of the violence.

In a fresh blow to the regime, 233 members of Syria’s ruling Baath party announced their resignation in protest at the deadly crackdown on protesters, according to lists seen by AFP.

“The security services have demolished the values with which we grew up. We denounce and condemn everything that has taken place and announce with regret our resignation from the party,” they said in a signed statement. Baath party signatories from the Banias region condemned “the house raids and the indiscriminate use of live fire against people, homes, mosques and churches.”

On the international scene, influential US Senator John McCain said Assad has “lost his legitimacy” and called for UN sanctions to force him to halt attacks on his people.