Friday, March 25, 2011

Al Jazeera's live coverage of the continuing unrest in Syria

Here below, for the record, is a copy of Al Jazeera's live coverage of the continuing unrest in Syria, Friday, 25 March 2011.

Syria Live Blog - March 25
By Al Jazeera Staff in Middle East on March 25th, 2011 -

As the situation in Syria escalates, we update you with the latest developments from our correspondents, news agencies and citizens across the globe.

Al Jazeera is not responsible for content derived from external sites.

AJE Live Stream - Special Coverage: Syria Unrest - Region in turmoil

(All times are local in Syria GMT+2)
Thousands of supporters of president Bashar al-Assad flood the streets of Damascus tonight to counter demonstrations against his regime. Many people drive through town, chanting and honking in support of the president.

In this YouTube clip protesters in the central square of Daraa destroy the portrait of president Bashar Al-Assad:

More YouTube footage of demonstrations in Homs. The protesters in this clip rip a banner with the image of the late president Hafez Al-Assad to pieces:

A large crowd continues to surround the Al Jazeera bureau in Damascus. The pro-regime protesters are threatening to burn or storm it.

Alistair Burt, UK's Foreign Office Minister for the Middle East and North Africa, expressed concern about the ongoing violence in Syria:

I have been watching closely the situation in Syria, and am deeply concerned by the use of force against demonstrators. I condemn the violence that has resulted in a large number of deaths in Deraa. All Syrians have a right to express their views peacefully.

I call on the Syrian government to respect the people’s right to peaceful protest and to address their legitimate grievances. I call for restraint on all sides but in particular from the Syrian security forces. Violence is never the right answer to these situations.

I note the statement from the President’s Advisor, Butheina Shabaan, that the Syrian government is looking at political reforms. I call on the Syrian government to implement these proposals without delay and to engage peacefully on the legitimate demands of the Syrian people, who will be looking for action to back up such statements.

Ten people were killed today in clashes between protesters and security forces in the southern Syrian city of Sanamin, a high-ranking official told AFP news agency.

Anas al-Abda, the chairman of the Movement for Justice and Development in Syria, tells Al Jazeera that the pro-regime protests in Damascus are "most probably fabricated and organised by the regime of Bashar Al-Assad".

Maamoun Al-Homsi,a leading Syrian opposition figure, called on the international community to intervene to stop "the massacres against civilians by President Bashar al-Assad's regime" in protests across Syria.

"There are killed and wounded and those who are arrested in all the provinces," he told Reuters by telephone from Canada, referring to protests that spread beyond the southern town of Daraa on Friday challenging Assad's rule.

The United States calls on the Syrian government to stop violence against demonstrators and the arrests of human rights activists, White House spokesman Jay Carney says.

We strongly condemn the Syrian government's attempts to repress and intimidate demonstrators.

Some hundred pro-regime protesters are surrounding the Al Jazeera office in Damascus, asking Al Jazeera to air their support for president al-Assad live on TV. If not, they are threatening to storm the office.

Security forces killed three people in the Mouadamieh district of Damascus after a crowd confronted a procession of cars driven by supporters of president Bashar al-Assad, residents said.

"The cars entered Mouadamieh after a protest by residents to denounce the killings in (the southern city) of Deraa," one of the residents said.

A map of Syria showing all the cities that saw protests today:

This image comes from SyrianFreePress's Channel and is yet another reference to president Bashar al-Assad. It also reads. Your turn has come, doctor:

This photo of graffiti in Syria was posted on Twitter. It reads: "Your turn has come, doctor" - a reverence to president Bashar Al-Assad, who is also an eye-doctor.

First video of dead bodies emerges after Syrian security forces open fire on protesters near Daraa WARNING - images in this video might not be suitable for some viewers [Al Jazeera cannot independently verify the authenticity of this footage]:

Quick recap of the latest developments: Protests are spreading across Syria.

In the southern city of Daraa, which has been in revolt for a week, gunfire and tear gas scattered a crowd of thousands after people lit a fire under a statue of late president Hafez al-Assad.

Al Jazeera aired comments by a man who said security forces had killed 20 people on Friday in the nearby town of Sanamein.

In Hama, in the centre of the country, where Hafez al-Assad put down an Islamist revolt in 1982 at a cost of many thousands of lives, residents said people streamed through the streets after weekly prayers chanting "Freedom is ringing out!" – a slogan heard in uprisings sweeping the rest of the Arab world.

More YouToube footage of the protests - this latest one is from Latakia, where protesters claim at leats one person was killed by security forces [Al Jazeera cannot independently verify the authenticity of this footage]:

The Syrian Information Ministry claims that there were armed people among the protestors in Daraa. Security forces were shot at and returned fire, Reem Haddad, an Information Ministry spokesperson, told Al Jazeera.

Al Jazeera's Rula Amin, reporting from Damascus, says:

It is escalating very quickly. The protests are spreading throughout Syria. There are several casualties, some people say eight, and some say 20. It is not possible to independently verify these numbers.

A witness and Deraa resident who was at the protest earlier tells Al Jazeera:

It was peaceful. Protesters tried pull down a statue of president Al-Assad, then the police opened fire on the protesters.

Syrian security forces kill at least 20 people in town of Sanamein, near Deraa, a witness tells Al Jazeera:

There are more than 20 martyrs .... they (security forces) opened fire haphazardly.

Syria's information minister seems to have missed something. He says the situation is "totally calm" throughout the country. Mohsen Bilal told Spanish radio Cadena Ser:

There is a totally peaceful climate in the Syrian towns and the terrorists have been arrested.

Several people were killed on Friday when a demonstration headed to the Syrian protest city of Daraa was raked by gunfire, a human rights activist told AFP news agency.

Several protesters were killed in a shooting in Sanamen as they were headed toward Daraa.

The activist requested anonymity. The news could not be confirmed by independent sources or hospitals in the area.

YouTube footage of demonstrations throughout seems to be flooding the web. This latest one is from Deraa [Al Jazeera cannot independently verify the authenticity of this footage]:

More YouTube footage of the demonstrations in Damascus in support for Deraa [Al Jazeera cannot independently verify the authenticity of this footage]:

France called for the "rapid and effective implementation" of reforms promised by Syria, including the lifting of the state of emergency in place for nearly five decades. Foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said:

France has taken note of the reforms announced yesterday by Syrian authorities. We call for the rapid and effective implementation of these measures, including the lifting of the state of emergency and the release of prisoners detained for having participated in protests.

On Thursday the regime of president Bashar al-Assad announced the release of all activists locked up sinceanti-government demonstrations began a month ago, and said it might scrap the 1963 emergency law.

More video is showing up on YouTube of after-prayer protests. This latest one is from Homs. The protesters march in solidarity with the people of Deraa [Al Jazeera cannot independently verify the authenticity of this footage]:

Protesters in Deraa are shouting slogans denouncing Maher al-Assad, brother of the Syrian president and head of the Republican Guard, a witness tells Reuters. As they headed to the main square in the city after the funeral of at least five protesters killed by security forces this week, thousands chanted:

Maher you coward. Send your troops to liberate the Golan

Israel captured the Golan Heights in a 1967 war.

About 1,000 people rallied in the town of Tel, just north of Damascus, in support of the city of Deraa, and denounced two relatives of president Bashar al-Assad as "thieves", witnesses said.

At least 44 people have been killed in Deraa in a police crackdown on protests by reformists that began a week ago.

More video of protests in Syria via Facebook - this time in Hama, a city just north of Homs. Hamah was was the scene of a 1982 attack by Syrian security forces that killed thousands. The protesters are chanting for more freedom [Al Jazeera cannot independently verify the authenticity of this footage].

Here is how the Syrian authorities ended a protest in the Grand Ummayad mosque in Aleppo today [Al Jazeera cannot independently verify the authenticity of this footage]:

Al Jazeera's special correspondent, reporting from among the pro-reform demonstrators in Daraa, said: "No one here is calling for a regime change".
"No one here is chanting slogans against the president Bashar al-Assad. The people here say they want freedom, they want reforms."

Human rights campaigners, Syrian intellectuals and other analysts agreed that today will give a clearer indication of whether the rebellion will spread or falter.
"When Friday is over, we'll have a much better idea what direction this is going in," said one political analyst, who works as an adviser to the government.

There were other, smaller-scale protests held for the first time in Homs, Banias and Deir Ezzor, but they were not dealt with so violently, with demonstrators arrested rather than shot.

Al Jazeera's Rula Amin, reporting from the capital Damascus, said "it is a new Syria".

Hundreds of Syrian villagers march to Daraa in support of the city, chanting:

"Freedom is ringing".


- Syria's "Day of Dignity" is under way, despite a nationwide security clampdown and a reform pledge by the government suggesting some of the "just" demands by protesters could be met, including political reforms.

- In Daraa, at the funeral of six of the victims shot dead by police, protesters called for freedom and for political reform.

- No security forces were present at the funerals after an agreement was made with local authorities to stay away.

- A harsh response by security forces to anti-government demonstrations in Daraa, 100 kilometres south of Damascus, has so far failed to quash protests in the city despite a spiralling civilian death toll since demonstrations began there a week ago.

- At least 44 people are believed to have been shot and killed in Daraa by security forces backed by the military since last Friday, with scores more wounded, according to human rights activists and a city hospital official.
A counter demonstration took place by supporters of President Assad, who is facing an unprecedented challenge to his 11 year rule.

Syrian secret police broke up demonstrations in the centre of the Syrian capital and arrested dozens of people, according to witness reports.

At least 200 people marched in the centre of Damascus after prayers in support of Daraa, scene of protests against Baath Party rule, a witness said.
"We sacrifice our blood, our soul, for you Daraa," they chanted as they were met by Assad loyalists chanting in support of the Syrian leader.
Al Jazeera's correspondent said:

"About 100 protesters are marching in Mezze following Friday prayers, chanting freedom freedom, peaceful peaceful...".

Thousands of mourners chanting for freedom march in Daraa city behind coffins of dead protesters.

Syrian secret police arrest at least three people in Damascus among marchers in support of Daraa city.

Protesters shouting for freedom gathered in the capital and other areas around the country on Friday as security forces ordered journalists to leave the southern city where a brutal weeklong siege on demonstrations killed dozens of people.

Daraa, the main city of southern Syria's drought-parched agricultural heartland, has become a flashpoint for protests in a country whose leadership stands unafraid of using extreme violence to quash internal unrest.
On Thursday, Sheikh Morshed Mashouq al-Khaznawi, a cleric from the predominantly Syrian Kurdish town of Qamishli, described Bashar al-Assad as a "tyrant".
"People are rising up in the face of the tyrant of Syria, Assad, and his gang, who have oppressed, suppressed and become haughty," he said.

He called on the Syrian population (in this video message) to "march in support for the revolution of youth" during Friday's 'Day of Dignity'.
Security forces appear to be trying to reduce tension in the southern city of Daraa where authorities launched a deadly, weeklong crackdown on protesters.

Syrian troops have dismantled checkpoints in Daraa and there was no visible army presence on the streets for the first time since last Friday.
Al Jazeera's Rula Amin, reporting from the capital Damascus, said:
"We have to remember that the protests have been confined to Daraa, that despite seven days of very strong clashes that resulted in the deaths of dozens of people, the capital and other Syrian towns remain quiet."

But she stressed the importance of not undermining the planned 'Day of Dignity' protests, saying "Friday is going to be a challenge and a test for the activists and the government".

We are hearing reports that president Bashar al-Assad, who faces the most serious unrest of his 11-year tenure, will speak to his nation within the next few hours to try to calm the situation.

On Thursday, Assad's government pledged to consider lifting some of the country's most repressive laws in an attempt to stop the weeklong uprising in Daraa and prevent it from spreading.

But many activists rejected those promises and called for demonstrations around the country on Friday.
These were the scenes on the streets of Daraa on Wednesday, after security forces stormed a mosque in the southern city:

Haitham Maleh, a prominent Syrian opposition figure, says the country is "a bomb, ready to explode" as protesters demand freedom and an end to president Bashar al-Assad's "cancerous regime".

He told The World Today Thursday's concessions do not go far enough.

Maleh, who was released from prison earlier this month under an amnesty for older political prisoners, says his countrymen are ready for a revolution.

The 80-year-old lawyer is one of Syria's most prominent human rights campaigners.
Authorities in Syria are bracing for the possibility of further protests, following a week of unrest that has left dozens dead in Daraa city.

Protests have been planned in Daraa and in the nation's capital, Damascus for after Friday prayers. Organisers have dubbed it a "Day of Dignity".

A statement posted yesterday on the Facebook page "The Syrian Revolution 2011" called for demonstrations in all Syrian provinces.

Click here: Syria braces for 'day of dignity' rallies - for more on this story.

Good morning, welcome to Al Jazeera's live coverage of the continuing unrest in Syria.



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