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Syrian police raided the homes of activists overnight Saturday, after firing on crowds at mass funerals that were held for protesters killed by security forces Friday.
Two parliament members and one government-appointed religious leader also resigned Saturday after an exceedingly violent weekend in which security forces repeatedly shot into crowds of civilians. At least 112 people have died in the past two days. While the crackdown is aimed at stopping the protests against President Bashar Al-Assad that started March 18, the mass uprising appears to be only swelling.
Al Jazeera reports that plainclothes police with assault rifles broke into activists’ homes across the nation in the early morning hours Sunday and arrested dozens of men. An unspecified number were reportedly arrested outside Damascus, while the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 18 people were arrested in the cities of Idlib, Raqqa, and Aleppo.
The raids came after security forces fired on funerals held Saturday for protesters who had been killed Friday. The numbers of dead that were reported varied, but The New York Times reports that at least 11 people died Saturday. At least 109 were killed Friday. The violence took place in the towns of Douma, Barza, Maadamiah, and Qabon, all near Damascus.
According to the Times, in Barza, at least 1,000 people had gathered at a funeral for four men and two children killed Friday. Security forces shot directly at the crowd, said a witness, forcing the funeral attendees to take shelter in a nearby mosque. Another witness in Douma said about 1,500 people were marching from a mosque to the cemetery when plainclothes police fired on the crowd.
The bloodshed on Saturday followed a pattern seen frequently in the tumult that has swept the Arab world. Funerals have often turned to demonstrations, where more have been killed by security forces bent on crushing dissent against authoritarian leaders. While Saturday’s death toll paled in comparison with the number killed on Friday, it suggested that the country might be entering a prolonged period of turmoil as protesters continue to press the greatest challenge to the Assad family’s four decades of rule.
Assad has tried to quell protests by announcing a series of reforms, including lifting the country’s emergency law, but it has not worked. On Saturday, two members of Syria’s rubber-stamp parliament resigned, along with a state-appointed mufti. All three were from the region of Daraa, where Syria’s uprising began, and met with President Assad earlier this month.
Assad promised them there would be no more bloodshed in Daraa, reports The Washington Post. Member of Parliament Nasser Al Hariri told Al Jazeera he “felt sorry” for those killed by security forces Friday and Saturday despite promises from the president not to use live ammunition on protesters. "Being an MP, I feel the need to step down, as long as I am unable to protect the voters killed by live ammunition and so I feel better to resign," he said.
Al Jazeera reports that the resignation of Rezq Abdulrahman Abazeid, the state-appointed religious leader of Daraa, was also in protest of the violence against protesters.
The Christian Science Monitor reports that the violence is putting President Obama in a difficult position. Critics of his policy on Syria say that although the US has tried to treat Assad as a reformer, he is more like his authoritarian father – as proved by his brutal attempts at repressing protests.
Obama took his strongest stand yet against Assad after the violence Friday, condemning the use of force, calling the human rights abuses in Syria “outrageous,” and saying, “Instead of listening to their own people, President Assad is blaming outsiders while seeking Iranian assistance in repressing Syria's citizens through the same brutal tactics that have been used by his Iranian allies.”