Last updated: 16 March, 2012

Pro-Assad rallies as revolt enters second year

Thousands of anti-regime protesters called on Friday for foreign military intervention to bring down a Syrian government whose brutal crackdown on dissent monitors say has cost more than 9,100 lives.

The protests after weekly Muslim prayers were called by activists on their Facebook page, Syrian Revolution 2011, to demand “immediate military intervention by the Arabs and Muslims, followed by the rest of the world.”

“The people want military intervention, the Free Syrian Army to be armed, and the fall of the regime,” several thousand demonstrators chanted in Aleppo in northern Syria, an activist at the scene told AFP in Beirut by telephone.

Thousands of others took part in protests in the flashpoint provinces of Homs and across Daraa as well as several districts of Damascus and the region, said Rami Abdel Rahman of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

On the day after the first anniversary of the outbreak of the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad, the Britain-based monitoring group said at least 15 people were killed in violence across Syria on Friday.

Huge rallies in support of Assad were held in Damascus and other major cities on Thursday to mark the anniversary. But numbers have fallen at anti-regime demonstrations as security forces seize protest centres.

humanitarian With the opposition divided, Western countries have been opposed to military intervention although Qatar and Saudi Arabia, Assad’s fiercest critics in the Arab world, have come out in favour of arming the rebels.

In a breakdown of 9,113 deaths in the past 12 months, not including the latest fatalities, the Syrian Observatory said the toll comprised 6,645 civilians, 1,997 members of the security forces and 471 rebels.

Activists said rebels clashed with troops between Artuz and Muadhamiya in the Damascus region on Thursday night, as Abdel Rahman said seven people were killed in overnight fighting in Dmeir and Qatana, in the same region.

The Observatory said at least 34 other people were killed in violence on Thursday, mostly in Idlib province bordering Turkey, where authorities said they were making contingency plans for a major refugee exodus.

The United Nations and Organisation of Islamic Cooperation are this weekend to send experts on a Syrian government-led humanitarian mission to the protest cities of Homs, Daraa and Hama where thousands have reportedly been killed.