Syrian protesters mark six months of revolt


Protesters vowed to hit the streets of Syria en masse Thursday to mark six months since the start of an ant-regime uprising, undaunted by a brutal crackdown in which more than 2,600 people have died. “Six months. More than ever determined to (continue) the March 15 uprising,” activists wrote on Facebook page The Syrian Revolution 2011, one of the main engines of the revolt. The planned protests follow another day of killings, with human rights activists saying security forces shot dead eight people, including a child, in a huge sweep on Wednesday against anti-regime protesters in northwestern Syria.
Armed with heavy machine guns, the forces cut off roads leading to the Jabal al-Zawiya villages of Baliun, Marayan, Ihsem, Al-Rami and Ablin, setting up checkpoints and arresting several people, said the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Four people were killed and dozens more wounded in the operation, it said, adding that 100 people were arrested including the family of Riad al-Assad, a soldier who defected. Elsewhere, a child was killed when security forces opened fire to disperse a demonstration in the village of Janudiya near the Turkish border, while another three people were shot dead in the flashpoint central provinces Hama and Homs, the Observatory said.
Ablin is the hometown of Lieutenant Colonel Hussein Harmush, the first military officer to publicly declare his desertion in early June in protest against the repression of the protest movement. He managed to leave Syria and had been leading the “Brigade of Free Officers,” a group of dozens of officers who have deserted the regime. But according to opposition sources in Damascus, he was recently captured in Turkey by Syrian intelligence agents and brought back to Syria. State television meanwhile announced that it would broadcast the colonel’s “confession” at 1730 GMT on Thursday. Outside the violence-wracked country, Syrian dissidents were on Thursday to gather in Istanbul to unveil the makeup of a National Council set up to coordinate the struggle against Assad’s regime.
Assad’s forces meanwhile have been accused of a “merciless” attack on a Red Crescent ambulance in the city of Homs on September 7, in a statement issued Wednesday by the New York-based Human Rights Watch.
In other violence, state news agency SANA reported a bus driver was ambushed in the city of Hama by an “armed terrorist group,” while five soldiers and a guard shot dead by a similar group were buried in Aleppo and Homs. Damascus has consistently maintained the protests are the work of “armed gangs,” rejecting reports by Western embassies and human rights groups that the great majority of those killed have been unarmed civilians. As international pressure mounts on Assad’s regime, including a raft of economic sanctions, Russia warned Wednesday that “terrorist organisations” could rise to power in Syria should Assad’s regime fall.