Syrian government says all normal as opposition calls mass rallies
The Syrian government said on Thursday that life was back to normal in all Syrian cities, as opposition activists prepared for mass protests against President Bashar al-Assad, DPA reported.
The main streets of all Syrian cities revealed normal behaviour, the state-run SANA news agency reported, a day before the Muslim day of prayer on Friday that in recent weeks has provided a focus for protests.
SANA said social and economic life had returned to normal in Daraa in the south, in the central city of Homs and in Aleppo in the north. Damascus markets were working normally ahead of the weekend, SANA added.
Pro-democracy protesters were preparing for mass rallies on Friday. Online activists have called on protesters to head to the main squares in each city after the noon prayers.
A video posted online reportedly showed dozens of anti-government protesters gathered in Damascus overnight shouting, "Down with Bashar al-Assad."
Another demonstration took place in Aleppo. Dozens marched near the university, chanting, "Leave, leave." They were dispersed by unidentified men.
The United States has imposed sanctions on Assad and other senior officials in response to a violent crackdown on anti-government protesters.
The US Treasury also imposed sanctions on two Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) commanders for supporting the crackdown by their ally Syria.
The Syrian pro-government al-Watan newspaper said on Thursday the US aimed to break Syria's alliance with Iran, the Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah and the Palestinian movement Hamas.
"The United States and its allies wants Syria to change its regional policies....and the US will waste no time in putting pressure on Syria to do so," Al-Watan said.
Protesters, who began demonstrating in mid-March, are calling for greater freedoms and reforms and for Assad to go. Human rights groups say more than 775 people have been killed so far.