At least 10,000 people have been arrested in the past few days in Syria in what the New York Times calls a “mass arrest campaign.” Activists report that the city of Homs, Syria’s third largest city, has been subjected to what a resident calls “continuous shelling since Sunday,” with only a few grocery stores and pharmacies daring to open. The Bab Amro district in Homs has been under siege for four days, with no water or electricity and no access to medical care.
The BBC reports that towns around Dara’a, where the protests began seven weeks ago, have been raided and a western suburb in the capital of Damascus cut off.
Diplomats in the United Nation say that as the brutal crackdown against its own people continues, Syria has had to forego its plans to run for a seat on the UN Human Rights Council. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called on President Bashar al-Assad to “take a softer line. Calling for an “immediate, verifiable cease-fire,” he told a news conference in Geneva on Wednesday:
“I urge President Assad to heed the calls of the people for reform and freedom and desist from excessive force and mass arrests of peaceful demonstrators, and to cooperate with the human rights monitors.”
Ban Ki-moon also expressed dismay that Syria has not allowed an international aid assessment team access to Dara’a, despite Asaad’s assurances that the team would be allowed to enter the city.
Despite the clampdown, protests continue. The Facebook page of Syrian Revolution 2011 has called for daily protests across the country. The New York Times reports that, on Monday night 250 people, including university students and professionals, held a small demonstration in Arnous Square in the heart of Damascus. Following the protest, residents reported that security forces had stepped up their presence, with checkpoints and more patrols.
The video below shows police arresting people in Arnous Square and Salhieh Market.
Protests are also planned in Homs. A resident, Abu Haydar, noted that residents are planning to change strategies: “We don’t want to reveal the location of our gathering. We want to surprise the security forces.”
Al-Jazeera reports that one of its correspondents, Dorothy Parvez, left Syria aboard a Ukrainian Airways flight headed to Iran on May 2, according to Bouthaina Shaaban, an adviser to Assad. Parvez was detained at the end of April as she arrived in the Damascus airport on an Iranian passport.
Said Wissam Tarif, executive director of Insan, a Syrian human rights group says, “The big question now is what’s next. They are about to announce victory, but what will happen when they pull the troops out?”
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