More protesters killed despite Assad's pledges

Opposition claims Ba'athists staged rally in Homs by bringing in people from outside of the city

Syria's security forces yesterday opened fire on demonstrators, killing at least seven people just a day after President al-Assad pledged to engage in a "national dialogue" to safeguard the country's now precarious future.

This new round of civilian bloodshed, the latest in Syria's 12-week insurrection, came as the Ba'athist regime attempted to shore up its tottering government by rallying its own supporters onto the streets. Tens of thousands of people, many waving Syrian flags and chanting pro-government slogans, gathered in city squares across the country.

A witness said that around 10,000 regime supporters arrived in the central Syrian city of Homs yesterday. "Nobody knows them, they are strangers to the city, they were asking for directions," the witness told the Associated Press news agency.

Another activist in Homs told The Independent there had been clashes between the pro and anti-government demonstrators. "I tried to get into the city centre today but I couldn't," said the man. "Some of the roads are blocked by anti-government people and others are blocked by pro-government people, including the police force."

During the stand-off, a number of civilians were killed by bursts of machine-gun fire. There were also reports that the security services were arresting injured demonstrators.

Despite the large pro-government demonstrations, many activists said the rallies bore the familiar hallmarks of an organised Ba'athist protest. Radwan Ziadeh, a US-based human-rights activist, said: "It's orchestrated by the Syrian regime to show that Bashar al-Assad still has some popularity in Syria and some people support him. But it's a failed strategy."

The day of violence, in which protesters were also shot dead in Hama and the eastern desert city of Deir al-Zour, came as the Syrian military continued to fan out across north of the country. Troops came to within a mile of the Turkish border where thousands of refugees are camped out on the Syrian side.

The UN's refugee agency's spokesman, Adrian Edwards, said that UN officials who had visited north-west Syria found a wasteland of ghost villages and empty farm fields. It was evidence of a "significant displacement" of people, he added. The Syrian army's sweep also extended to Aleppo, the country's second city and an area which has so far escaped serious unrest.

In a sign the regime is getting jittery about the prospects of maintaining Aleppo's relative sense of calm, a number of students were arrested at the university following a demonstration yesterday. There were also reports army roadblocks around the city had been increased.

Mohammed Karkouti, a senior member of opposition exile group the Syrian Conference for Change, said: "It's a very, very critical situation. I think the revolution is beyond Bashar al-Assad and the regime. The only right thing he said in his speech on Monday was that we're not going back. He is right, but it won't be good for the regime."

Human-rights groups say more than 1,400 civilians have been killed by troops and security forces since the start of the uprising, which began in the southern city of Daraa after 15 schoolboys were arrested for spraying anti-regime graffiti.

On Monday, President al-Assad used a televised addressed to mix vague promises of reform with warnings about "saboteurs" and murky conspiracies. The speech, coupled with yesterday's display of pro-government support, led some analysts to suggest the president would lead his country to the precipice in order to defend his family's 40-year grip on power.

International pressure is still building. Although Russia has said it opposes any UN Security Council resolutions condemning the regime, Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin yesterday said there was a "need to apply pressure" on any country where "massive unrest" was happening.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
glastonbury
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Shock of the news: Jake Gyllenhaal in ‘Nightcrawler’
filmReview: Gyllenhaal, in one of his finest performances, is funny, engaging and sinister all at once
Life and Style
Taste the difference: Nell Frizzell tucks into a fry-up in Jesse's cafe in east London
food + drinkHow a bike accident left one woman living in a distorted world in which spices smell of old socks and muesli tastes like pork fat
Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington has been given a huge pay rise to extend his contract as Jon Snow in Game of Thrones
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Don’t send in the clowns: masks and make-up conceal true facial expressions, thwarting our instinct to read people’s minds through their faces, as seen in ‘It’
filmThis Halloween, we ask what makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?
News
peopleFarage challenges 'liberally biased' comedians to 'call him a narcissist'
Arts and Entertainment
Liam and Zayn of One Direction play with a chimpanzee on the set of their new video for 'Steal My Girl'
music
Arts and Entertainment
Young Fathers are the surprise winners of this year's Mercury Music Prize
music
News
i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior IP Opportunity at Major Firm

vary Attractive Salary: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - AN OPENING AT A VERY HIGH Q...

Nursery Manager

£100 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Ilford: Nursery Manager Long term Ran...

Sales Consultant – Permanent – West Sussex – £24-£25k plus commission and other benefits

£24000 - £25000 Per Annum plus company car and commission: Clearwater People S...

SEN Teaching Assistant

£45 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: Supply SEN Support Jobs in Bris...

Day In a Page

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes