Thousands protest across Syria amid army crackdown

Thousands protest across Syria amid army crackdown

Syrian security Friday forcefully dispersed thousands of protesters who took to the streets in several cities to defy a crackdown against anti-government demonstrations.

More than 2,000 students were protesting in the university city in Aleppo. Security forces and government militia, known as Shabiha, tried to disperse them by force, the Local Coordination Committees of Syria online group said, DPA reported.

Security stormed some students' rooms and arrested some of the demonstrators.

Broadcaster Al Jazeera reported that security fired shots in the air to disperse protesters in the southern city of Daraa.

Thousands were demonstrating in the cities of Deir al-Zour, Lattakia and Ras Al-Ain, demanding the ouster of President Bashar al-Assad, activists wrote online.

In the town of Bensh, in Idlib province, around 10,000 protesters gathered in al-Hurriya (Freedom) square in after the Friday prayers.

Earlier in Idlib, the army began operations "to restore security" in the north-western town of Jisr al-Shaghur, near the Turkish border.

"Our correspondent in Jisr al-Shaghur said now that, in response to people's calls, units from the army began its duties in the town to arrest armed members," a television station reported.

The broadcaster added that armed groups set fire to fields around the town.

The massive military operation against government opponents involves some 30,000 troops, Turkish TV channel CNN Turk reported.

The operation comes after authorities said 120 security personnel were killed by "armed groups" earlier in the week.

Damascus said that "terrorists and thugs" attacked security forces and tried to take over the area. But opposition members maintain the deaths were of defectors who were executed by their fellow soldiers.

In the wake of the government's vow to retaliate for the deaths of the 120 security officers, more than 2,400 Syrians fled across the border into Turkey in recent days amid fears of reprisal.

Mohamed Zaatar is one of those being treated in a hospital in Antakya. He said he was shot last Sunday by a military helicopter in Jisr al-Shaghur.

"My relatives took me to a far away clinic because we could not go to the town's hospital, where security were acting as doctors and killing those injured," Zaatar told the German Press Agency dpa.

He said troops who entered the city before he was injured said they were told by their superiors that they were being transferred to fight in the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights. But they were instead taken to Jisr al-Shahgur.

Some of them defected and escaped into Turkey with him, Zaatar added. Yet, they refused to talk to media, fearing for their families who remained in Syria.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan condemned Syrian violent crackdown against protesters as an "atrocity."

Erdogan's comments represent his harshest critique so far of the Syrian regime's crackdown on anti-government protesters.

More than 1,300 people have been killed in Syria since the protests against President Bashar al-Assad began in March, according to human rights groups.

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