AMMAN, (Reuters) – Syrian forces killed at least 32 civilians yesterday, including 23 in the capital Damascus, in an intensifying crackdown on protests against President Bashar al-Assad, activists said.
It was the highest death toll in the central neighbourhoods of Damascus since the uprising erupted four months ago in the southern Hauran Plain near Syria’s border with Jordan.
“Tens of thousands of Damascenes took to the streets in the main districts for the first time today, that is why the regime resorted to more killings,” said one activist by telephone from Damascus. He declined to be named for fear of being arrested.
The killings prompted the opposition to cancel their planned National Salvation conference in Qaboun neighbourhood of Damascus on Saturday after security forces killed 14 protesters outside a wedding hall where the conference had been due to take place, opposition leader Walid al-Bunni told Reuters.
“Secret police also threatened the owner of the wedding hall. We decided to cancel the meeting to save lives,” Bunni said by telephone from Damascus.
Bunni said prominent opposition figures and activists would still hold a separate conference in Istanbul on Saturday.
The rest of those killed in Damasacus were in Barzeh, where one protester had died, and in Rukn al-Din quarter of the city, where security forces fired protesters killing eight people.