Beirut: Syrian security forces arrested
hundreds of activists and anti-government protesters in
house-to-house raids across the country today, part of an
escalating government crackdown aimed at stamping out a revolt
engulfing the country.
President Bashar Assad has dispatched army troops and
tanks to crush the seven-week uprising that has posed the most
serious challenge to his family`s 40-year rule. Assad`s regime
appears determined to crush the uprising by force and
intimidation, despite rapidly growing international outrage
and a death toll that has topped 630 civilians since the
unrest began, according to rights groups.
Today`s arrests, which zeroed in on the protests`
organisers and participants, were focused in four areas the
central city of Homs, the coastal city of Banias, some suburbs
of the capital Damascus and villages around the southern
flashpoint city of Daraa, said Rami Abdul-Rahman, director of
the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
He and other activists said the crackle of gunfire
could be heard in the Damascus suburb of Maadamiyeh.
Activists said security forces redeployed in the town
today after a brief withdrawal the day before, closing all
roads leading in.
The area, scene of large demonstrations in past weeks,
was without electricity, communication or water, the activists
said on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal. Residents
also reported house-to-house raids and arrests and said
several tanks were stationed in the town.
By early afternoon, scores of women were demonstrating
in Banias, demanding the release of hundreds of detained men
who were being held at the city`s soccer stadium, Abdul-Rahman
said. He added that security officers promised the women that
all men over the age of 40 would be freed.
In an indication that the regime shows no sign of
folding, Assad was quoted as saying in comments published
today that "the current crisis in Syria will be overcome and
that the process of administrative, political and media
reforms are continuing." The report, in the private daily
Al-Watan, which is close to the government, did not elaborate
but said Assad made the comments while receiving a local
Abdul-Rahman said that more than 250 people had been
arrests in Banias, which home to one of Syria`s two oil
refineries. Special forces backed by tanks entered the city