Sun, May 15, 2011 - Page 1 News List

Death toll mounts in Syria despite dialogue offer

AFP, DAMASCUS

Syrian troops killed three people and wounded several others yesterday in the border town of Tall Kalakh, a witness said, as the death toll rose despite a presidential no-shoot order and offer of dialogue.

Hundreds of Syrians, most of them women and children, fled across the border from Tall Kalakh for Lebanon yesterday, a local official said.

“More than 500 people have crossed since 7am, most of them women and children,” town councilor Mahmud Khazaal said.

The assault came a day after thousands of people took to the streets after the main weekly Muslim prayers for anti-regime -protests in the town, which lies about 160km north of Damascus.

At least five people were killed on Friday, activists said, despite an order from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for security forces not to open fire on protesters and an offer of dialogue.

Friday’s bloodshed cast a pall over the government’s pledges to forge ahead with reforms in Syria, which has been gripped by two months of deadly protests, and triggered fresh condemnation from Western governments.

The US expressed renewed outrage and French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe blamed Assad for the deadly repression.

Britain summoned the Syrian ambassador in coordination with other European nations, warning of “further measures” if it failed to stop the crackdown.

Three people were shot dead during protests in the central city of Homs and two others were killed as they emerged from a mosque in Damascus, activists said.

Security sources also fired warning shots on Friday to disperse thousands of anti-government protesters in Daraa, scene of a massive 10-day military operation that ended last week.

Friday rallies also swept the northern, mostly Kurdish regions of Qamishli, Derbassiye and Amuda, activists said.

Several dissidents were -arrested on Friday in Homs and in and around Damascus, said Rami Abdul Rahman, head of the -London--based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Syrian Information Minister Adnan Mahmud said the army started on Friday to pull out of the coastal province of Banias, where it deployed in force last week.

“A general national dialogue will start in the coming days in every governorate,” he told reporters, adding that Assad had already met delegates from several regions.

“The president has heard their grievances and their opinions about what is going on in Syria,” the minister said.

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