Security forces ‘kill 30 Syrian protesters’

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Syrian security forces opened fire on protesters and hunted them down in house-to-house raids, killing about 30 people, activists said yesterday.

It was the deadliest day in weeks in the country’s seven-month-old uprising.

The popular revolt against President Bashar Assad’s regime has proved remarkably resilient, protests erupting every week despite the near-certainty the government will respond with force.

The United Nations estimates the regime crackdown on the protests has killed 3,000 people since March.

Many protesters said yesterday they wanted a no-fly zone established over Syria to protect civilians and activist groups have called for international monitors, although most opposition groups reject the idea of foreign military intervention.

Much of the bloodshed yesterday happened after the protests had ended and security forces armed with machineguns chased protesters and activists, according to opposition groups monitoring the demonstrations. Authorities were also said to have disrupted telephone and internet service.

The Syrian opposition’s two main activist groups, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Local Co-ordinating Committees, gave figures for the protesters killed ranging from 29 to 37.

The flashpoints were Homs and Hama in central Syria, where opposition to the regime is strong.

The head of the observatory, Rami Abdul-Rahman, said security forces in Homs were firing machine guns as they conducted raids in search of protesters and activists. In Hama, there were heavy clashes between the army and gunmen believed to be army defectors.

Syria has largely sealed off the country from foreign journalists and prevented independent reporting.

The Syrian government insists the unrest is being driven by terrorists and foreign extremists.