DAMASCUS (AFP) – Anti-regime protesters in Syria on Sunday planned the start of what they billed as a “week of breaking the siege” a day after troops killed six civilians in the southern flashpoint city of Daraa.
As protesters on Saturday buried scores of people killed the previous day in a “day of rage,” activists vowed to keep up the pressure on the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, promising a new week of pro-democracy rallies.
And 138 more members of Assad’s ruling Baath party resigned in protest at the deadly crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators, according to collective resignation lists received by AFP in Nicosia.
At least 66 people were killed on Friday when tens of thousands of people demonstrated across Syria, activists said. The authorities said nine members of the security forces were shot dead by “terrorist groups.”
Activists said countrywide protests from Sunday would begin a “week of breaking the siege” — a reference to Daraa and the Damascus suburb of Douma, which the army has controlled since Monday.
Demonstrations were planned for Daraa and on Sunday and around Damascus on Monday.
Rallies are planned on Tuesday in the northern towns of Banias and Jableh, Wednesday in Homs, Talbisseh and in Tall Kalakh on the border with Lebanon, and nationwide night vigils on Thursday.
On Saturday six more civilians were killed when the army began pounding Daraa at dawn and snipers opened fire from rooftops on anyone venturing out, activists said.
Water and power have been cut in Daraa as the situation worsened after 3,000-5,000 troops supported by tanks stormed the town six days ago.
“The town is a military zone and the situation is tragic, but our morale is high,” Daraa activist Abdullah Abazid told AFP.
Among the dead on Saturday was Osama Ahmed Assayasni, 27, son of the imam of Daraa’s Omari Mosque, who was shot for refusing to reveal where his father was hiding.
Abazid also said a pregnant woman and her two children died when a rocket hit their house.
A military spokesman said one soldier was killed and seven others wounded in Daraa.
“The hunt for terrorist groups has resulted in the deaths of six of their members and the arrest of 149 wanted people and the seizure of quantities of weapons,” he said.
The military said five soldiers were killed and two captured by “armed terrorists” in the area, and three soldiers were killed when gunmen tried to cut the highway linking Homs to Hama.
Four soldiers were buried on Saturday, the military said.
The Syrian Revolution 2011, a driving force behind the protests that erupted on March 15, said blood “will not have been spilled in vain.”
“The martyrs are eternal, but the criminals will end up in the dustbins of history after being judged and punished by the people,” the group said on Facebook. “Freedom is inexorably coming.”
Friday’s “day of rage” also rocked the coastal city of Banias and the majority Kurdish city of Qamishli, and neighbouring towns.
The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told AFP the death toll from Friday’s violence rose on Saturday to 66, most of them killed in Daraa.
At least 582 people have been killed by security forces firing live rounds and tear gas since protests erupted, said the Committee of the Martyrs of the 15 March Revolution, which has been keeping a tally of the dead.
Also on Saturday, 50 women protested outside parliament in Damascus calling for an end to the sieges in Daraa and Douma, a rights activist told AFP in Nicosia.
Security forces rounded up at least 11 and forced them on a bus to an unknown destination.
Nearly 100 people also gathered outside the offices of the pan-Arabic satellite channel Al-Jazeera, accusing it of “lies” and “exaggeration” in its coverage of the Syrian protests.
Washington and the European Union, meanwhile, turned the heat up on Damascus by slapping it with new sanctions.
The United States blocked the assets of Assad’s brother, Maher, who commands Syria’s feared Fourth Armoured Division, and of several other top officials and its intelligence services.
EU ambassadors met on Friday to prepare to impose an embargo on the sale of weapons and equipment that might be used for internal repression and decided to put the brakes on trade deals with Syria.
In Geneva, the UN Human Rights Council endorsed a US call for an investigative mission on the bloodshed as it voted in favour of a resolution condemning the crackdown.
Russia, a traditional Damascus ally which opposed the Geneva vote, slammed the West’s “double standards and bias” as the foreign ministry warned anew against foreign interference in Syria.
Meanwhile Turkey braced for an influx of refugees from Syria after allowing 252 to enter as the Turkish Red Crescent sent aid to the border region, official media reported.