Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

MEDIAWATCH

'New York Post' slammed for publishing ISIS execution images

Read more

DEBATE

Back to Square One?

Read more

DEBATE

Israel-Gaza: Back to Square One?

Read more

DEBATE

Israel-Gaza conflict: 72-hour ceasefire deal sets stage for Cairo talks

Read more

WEB NEWS

Web users divided over Darren Wilson

Read more

FOCUS

Spain's El Hierro to become world's first self-powered island

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

A bellwether for what not to do

Read more

ENCORE!

Luc Besson back in action with Scarlett Johansson in 'Lucy'

Read more

FOCUS

Israel's minorities and military service

Read more

  • US forces tried to rescue slain reporter from IS captors

    Read more

  • Interactive: Relive the Liberation of Paris in WWII

    Read more

  • US attorney general visits Missouri town after fatal shooting

    Read more

  • French village rallies behind besieged elderly British couple

    Read more

  • Brazil’s Silva launches bid after Campos plane crash death

    Read more

  • Netanyahu compares Hamas to IS, Gaza offensive to continue

    Read more

  • Brutal IS beheading video sparks social media pushback

    Read more

  • France’s ex-PM Juppé sets up presidential clash with Sarkozy

    Read more

  • France’s Hollande says global security ‘worst since 2001’

    Read more

  • France urges Iran, others in region, to join fight against IS

    Read more

  • A new view on Normandy landings, 70 years on

    Read more

  • Dozens killed as landslides strike Japan’s Hiroshima

    Read more

  • Suspected Ebola cases in Austria, new drug raises hopes

    Read more

  • WWII anniversary highlights best - and worst - of Paris police

    Read more

  • Headscarf at the beach sparks French MEP’s fury

    Read more

Middle east

Syrian tanks storm restive city of Banias, activists say

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2011-05-07

Syrian forces killed at least six people in Banias on Saturday after troops backed by tanks entered the city, a centre of anti-government protests, and targeted mostly Sunni neighbourhoods, activists said.

REUTERS - Syrian forces shot dead six civilians in an attack on Sunni districts in the mixed city of Banias on Saturday, rights campaigners said, raising sectarian tension in a country gripped by pro-democracy protests. 

The attack came hours after the United States, reacting to the death of 27 protesters on Friday, threatened to take new steps against Syria’s rulers, who are from the Alawite sect.
 
Banias has seen some of the most persistent demonstrations since unrest first erupted in the southern city of Deraa seven weeks ago, with activists calling for political freedom and an end to corruption.
 
Rights group Sawasiah said the number of civilians killed in the violence across the country had reached 800, a figure disputed by the government.
 
Army units with tanks entered Banias, a Mediterranean coastal city of 50,000 people, from several directions, advancing into Sunni districts but not Alawite neighbourhoods, the human rights campaigners said. Banias is around 70 percent Sunni Muslim and 30 percent Alawite.
 
Four women were killed when soldiers fired at a small all-women protest marching on the main coastal highway from Marqab village near Banias, they added.
 
“Residents are hearing the sound of shelling and heavy machineguns,” one of the human rights campaigners said.
 
Rami Abdul Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights based in London, earlier told Reuters regular and special army units were in the city.
 
“They are conducting search operation in several areas. The army has lists and is looking for people based on it,” he said.
 
Most phone and Internet communication with Banias has been cut but the campaigners said they were able to contact several residents.
 
Sawasiah said the authorities had intensified a clampdown on communication networks to disrupt the flow of information about their “bloody repression of non-violent demonstrators”.
 
Mobile 3G Internet services by the country’s two operators has been cut in Damascus as well since Friday, Sawasiah said.
 
Syrian tycoon Rami Makhlouf, Assad’s cousin, owns the country’s largest operator Syriatel, while South African group MTN controls the second operator.
 
Syrian authorities have banned foreign media from reporting from the country.
 
Syrian forces earlier raided Marqab, arresting scores of men, women and teenagers, the Observatory said.
 
State authorities said Banias was a “centre of Salafist terrorism” and that armed groups had killed soldiers near the city. Salafism is an ultra-conservative brand of Sunni Islam.
 
Civic leaders in Banias denied the accusation and said the government was trying to spread fear among Alawites, who occupy most senior positions in the army and security apparatus.
 
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has said the protesters are part of a foreign conspiracy to cause sectarian strife.
 
His father, Hafez al-Assad, who ruled for 30 years until his death in 2000, brutally suppressed an armed Islamist uprising in 1982 in which around 30,000 people were killed.
 
International sanctions
 
International criticism has increased against Assad, who is trying to preserve his family’s 41-year-old grip on power in the country of 20 million people.
 
European Union governments agreed on Friday to impose asset freezes and travel restrictions on up to 14 Syrian officials, alongside other sanctions, in response to Assad’s violent crackdown.
 
The United States also imposed sanctions against figures in the Syrian government last week. On Friday it threatened to step up pressure to try to stop the violence.
 
Syrian officials give a lower death toll from the unrest and say half the fatalities have been soldiers and police, blaming “armed terrorist groups”. They say demonstrators are few in number and do not represent the majority of Syrians.
 
The state news agency SANA said on Saturday that “terrorist groups” had killed 11 soldiers and policemen in Homs, listing the names of those dead.
 
Security forces killed four protesters in Deir al-Zor on Friday, a local tribal leader said, the first deaths reported from the region that produces most of Syria’s 380,000 barrels per day of oil.
 
A Western diplomat said 7,000 people had been arrested since mid-March.

 

Date created : 2011-05-07

  • SYRIA

    Syrian opposition calls on Assad to hold elections

    Read more

  • SYRIA

    Defiance and violence as Syrians take to the streets

    Read more

  • SYRIA

    Syria faces 'day of defiance'

    Read more

COMMENT(S)