Posted at 11:15 AM ET, 03/24/2011

Syria protests erupt, dozens killed according to reports


A crowd chants anti-regime slogans during a funeral procession for a protester killed in Daraa. (Reuters TV)

UPDATE, 1:50 p.m. ET: 7:50 p.m. EET:

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad may end the country’s emergency law and prepare new laws, a political adviser said on state television Thursday, Businessweek reported.

11:15 a.m. ET; 5:15 p.m. EET:

Twenty thousand Syrians marched in the southern town of Daraa Thursday, chanting slogans such as "God! Syria! Freedom!," Reuters reports. They marched at a funeral procession of nine protesters, who were among at least 25 shot dead by security forces near a mosque in Daraa the previous day.

Wednesday’s violence was a dramatic escalation of more than a week of protests in Syria.

The situation across the town of Daraa remained tense Thursday. The Associated Press reports that its reporters cannot get into the protest area, but they are hearing gunfire. Almost all shops are shuttered, the streets nearly empty, and soldiers are stopping people at checkpoints, according to the Wall Street Journal. Some residents of the town are holding a sit-in to protest the killings.

A witness has told Al Jazeera that he thinks more than 100 have been killed in the violence, and many more have gone missing, as bodies have been dragged from the streets. The main hospital in Daraa said it has received the bodies of at least 37 protesters, Reuters reports.

Follow our continuing coverage of the Middle East unrest here.

Reports from Syria's state-run television station differ from the protesters. State television reported that an "armed gang" attacked an ambulance at the Omari mosque, killing four people, according to Al Jazeera. The victims were reportedly a doctor, a paramedic, a policeman and the ambulance driver. State television also showed images of a weapons stockpile inside the Omari mosque, including pistols, shotguns, grenades and ammunition.

This video purportedly shows what has been happening inside the Omari Mosque, the site of much of the violence. We are unable to independently verify its content:

Protests began nearly 10 days ago with a Syrian “Day of Rage” in which demonstrators rallied against what they said were increasingly repressive measures of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, including a tightening of Internet censorship, expanded use of travel bans, and the arrest of political prisoners.

Nearly 200 Web sites are inaccessible in Syria, and a law was put into place in 2007 that forces Internet cafes to record all the comments users post on chat forums, Reporters Without Borders reported. President Assad has permitted the existence of radio stations playing Western pop music, but Web sites such as Wikipedia, YouTube and Facebook were banned in 2008, the Economist reported. In February 2010, Syria lifted the ban on Facebook and YouTube but convicted a teenage girl of espionage and sentenced her to five years in prison for political poetry she wrote on her blog, Agence France Presse reported.

Since the protests began, security forces have responded to protesters with water cannon, tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition, WSJ reported.

Footage has emerged that shows the violence from Wednesday’s and Thursday’s protests.

This video is said to show citizens carrying an injured man lying in the street to safety as gunshots are heard in the background. NOTE: Graphic imagery inside.

This video appears to show tear gas being used on the crowds:

A statement posted Thursday on the rebel “Syrian Revolution 2011” Facebook page warned that Friday, March 25 would see even bigger protests. This video is said to tell of the plans for protests on “Dignity Friday”:

A Syrian student tweeted that he was not hopeful about the government meeting protesters' demands:

Expecting to be stressed and disappointed in the coming hours. They still have @ahmadtalk under custody for simply reporting.less than a minute ago via TweetDeck

While some tweeted about detainments:

Just now: Journalist Mazen Darwish, writer Louay Hussein and blogger @ahmadtalk were detained for disseminating news on #Deraa. #Syrialess than a minute ago via TweetDeck

Some shared pictures of the violence:

One of the Syrian kids kidnapped by Military Security in #Daraa, bruises from torture and abuse http://twitpic.com/4crvwh #Syrialess than a minute ago via web

And others tweeted about repression of Facebook and Twitter:

Free @ahmadtalk. The tweep that fell.less than a minute ago via TweetDeck

The Political Police has taken #fb emails and #twitter passwords from detainees using violence. #Syria #March15 #Daraaless than a minute ago via web

By  |  11:15 AM ET, 03/24/2011

Tags:  Daily Catch

 
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