Tue, Mar 22, 2011 - Page 6 News List

Protesters in Syria come under fire for third straight day

AP, DAMASCUS

Police fired live ammunition and tear gas on Sunday at thousands of Syrians protesting in a tense southern city for a third consecutive day, killing one person and signaling that unrest in yet another Arab country is taking root, activists said.

Enraged protesters set fire to several local government buildings, according to state media and a witness.

The violence in Dara’a, a city of about 300,000 near the border with Jordan, was fast becoming a major challenge for Syrian President Bashar Assad, who tried to contain the situation by freeing detainees and promising to fire officials responsible for the violence.

Protesters in Syria, however, would face a tough time trying to pull off a serious uprising along the lines of those that toppled leaders in Egypt and Tunisia. Assad’s Syria is a country that crushes political dissent, closely controls the media and routinely jails critics of the regime.

Despite the political repression and rights abuses, Assad remains popular among many in the Arab world, in particular, because he is seen as one of the few Arab leaders willing to stand up to Israel.

It is also not clear how much support any uprising would have within the country. A few earlier attempts to organize protests through social networking sites fell flat.

The confrontations in Syria began on Friday when security troops fired at protesters in the city and killed five people.

Mazen Darwish, a prominent Syrian writer and activist who is in contact with residents and witnesses in Dara’a, said one person, Raed al-Ekrad, was killed on Sunday and two others suffered serious gunshot wounds when police opened fire on demonstrators calling for political freedoms and shouting anti-government slogans.

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