Beirut: Syrian security forces fired on a
funeral procession in a restive northwestern border region, killing two people and raising Wednesday`s death toll to at least
28, activists said.
The flare-up of violence in Idlib province highlighted
how Syria`s uprising, which earlier this year involved mostly
peaceful demonstrations in small towns and cities, has become
a virtual insurgency in the countryside along the Turkish
In Damascus, a prominent US-born Syrian blogger and press
freedom campaigner was charged yesterday by Syrian authorities
with trying to incite sectarian strife, her organisation said.
The Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression in
the Arab World said today that Razan Ghazzawi was also charged with spreading false information and weakening national sentiment -- a charge often levelled against those who challenge the Syrian regime.
The charges could carry a prison sentence of up to 15
years. The statement issued today by the SCM, where Ghazzawi
worked, said she denied the charges.
She was arrested December 4 at the border while on her
way to Jordan for a conference on press freedom.
Rami Abdul-Rahman, director of the British-based Syrian
Observatory for Human Rights, and other Syrian activists said
thousands of people were taking part in the funeral in the
city of Idlib of civilians killed there earlier in the day
when the gunfire erupted.
Regime forces swept through villages in the area near the
Turkish frontier and attacked infiltrators at the border, and
anti-regime fighters staged a retaliatory ambush and
assassinated a senior officer earlier today, the reports and
Syrian media said.
Military defectors known as the Free Syrian Army have
found shelter alongside thousands of Syrian refugees on the
Turkish side, making use of mountainous terrain, local smuggling networks and support among villagers on the Syrian
side to stage cross-border attacks.
President Bashar Assad`s forces have responded with
stepped-up border patrols and reprisal raids on villages where
anti-regime protests have been frequent.
The bloodshed in Syria, which the UN said yesterday has
left at least 5,000 dead, has resulted in increasing pressure
on the Assad regime, including sanctions by the United States,
the EU and the Arab League.