AMMAN, (Reuters) – Syrian forces shot dead six pro-democracy protesters yesterday, activists said, after demonstrations called for foreign help and Turkey indicated that its patience was running thin with the bloody crackdown.
Protesters took to the streets in their thousands after Friday prayers as they have weekly for six months. But, ahead of a visit by the Arab League secretary general to Damascus on Saturday, residents and activists reported an easing in the use of live ammunition by Syrian troops and security police.
In a change in their rhetoric, demonstrators demanded international protection to stop civilian killings in what has become one of the most violent responses to protest of the “Arab Spring” uprisings sweeping the Middle East and North Africa.
“Where is the international community?” shouted protesters in the Damascus suburb of Qudsaya.
In Hajar al-Aswad, on the southern edge of Damascus, protesters carried a large green, white and red-striped old Syrian flag, dating back half a century to the era before Assad’s Baath Party seized control of Syria.
“After all these killings and assaults, where is international protection?” read a banner carried by protesters who chanted: “The people want the execution of the president.”
Assad has responded to the protests, inspired by Arab popular uprisings that have toppled three autocratic leaders in North Africa this year, with military assaults in which the United Nations says 2,200 people have died. A Syrian grassroots organisation said security forces have killed 3,000 civilians.