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500 arrests in Syrian city of Daraa

Arab World Materials 1 May 2011 22:37 (UTC +04:00)
Around 500 people were arrested on Sunday in and around the Syrian city of Daraa as anti-government protesters planned a new round of demonstrations throughout the week, activists said, dpa reported.
500 arrests in Syrian city of Daraa

Around 500 people were arrested on Sunday in and around the Syrian city of Daraa as anti-government protesters planned a new round of demonstrations throughout the week, activists said, dpa reported.

Syria has faced international condemnation over its violent crackdown, which opposition groups say has killed 600 since mid-March. At least 70 people were killed over the past two days in Syria, according to rights advocates,

"It is calm right now in Daraa - for the photographs," pro-democracy activists said online, adding that some shop owners were forced to open their stores so that the government can take pictures to show that everything is calm in the city.

Prominent lawyer and activist Hassan Abdel-Azim, of the National Democratic Grouping was arrested while in his office on Saturday and was taken to an unknown location. No reason for the arrest was given, a rights groups said in a joint statement Sunday.

More troops and tanks entered Daraa early Saturday following mass protests on Friday.

Activists vowed not to stop their protests until the government ended its attacks on the southern city, which is among several cities in the country that remain besieged by army troops. Residents complain of shortages in food and medical supplies.

The arrests are part of a continuous crackdown on protesters, who took to the streets last month calling for greater freedoms, reforms, and - increasing - the ouster of President Bashar al-Assad.

It also comes despite promises of reform by the government, and a decree by al-Assad to lift the state of emergency that has been in effect since 1963.

Independent confirmation of the casualty figures was not immediately available. Syrian authorities have banned foreign journalists from entering the country, with the government blaming the unrest on what it calls conspirators.

Syrian television has aired several interviews of people saying they were given money and weapons or asked to take pictures of the protests and send them abroad.

The official news agency SANA reported that a funeral was held to eight members of the military and security forces "after they were targeted by extremist terrorist groups in Daraa and Homs".

British Prime Minister David Cameron condemned Syria's "disgraceful and unacceptable" crackdown on anti-regime protesters and called for more pressure to be put on the government.

Cameron told BBC television that more needs to be done "to step up the pressure on that regime to show internationally this is not acceptable."

The European Union on Friday threatened Syria with sanctions. The United States has already imposed new sanctions on al-Assad's regime.

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