Violence erupts across Syria; reported deaths rise to 73

News Brief – April 22, 2011

Violence erupted across Syria on Friday as protests continued against the ruling Assad regime.

CNN reported that security forces opened fire on protesters in a Damascus suburb who were tearing down a statue of Hafez al-Assad, former ruler of Syria and the current president’s father.

Elsewhere, security forces are reported to have killed seven protesters in the southern city of Izraa and a further four in Homs.

The protests come a day after President Bashar al-Assad lifted the country’s 48-year-old state of emergency and abolished the state security court

The continued unrest in Syria is probably being veiwed with grave concern by Iran. Both countries have mutual defence agreements and Syria’s President Assad is Iranian President Ahmadinejad staunchest ally in the Arab world.

Given the close alliance between the two it would be to benefit of Israel and the West to see Assad deposed or at the very least replaced by a regime more amenable Western approaches.

Meanwhile the BBC has reported that at least 15 protesters were shot dead during Friday’s demonstrations, bringing to over 200 the total killed in the current spate of unrest in Syria.

For its part Iran’s Press TV also reported on the protests after Friday’s Prayers, although it put the number of fatalites “at least eleven”.   

Syrian activists had earlier rebaptised Friday as “Great Friday” in anticipation of widespread demonstration against the ruling regime.

However, that appellation could assume more tragic overtones as the death toll continues to rise.

The latest reports from the New York Times estimates the number of those killed in Friday’s anti-government protest around “at least 73″.  

The growing number of fatalities was later echoed by Iran’s Press TV when it reported that 73 had died in Syrian unrest on Friday.

Protest were reported in 20 towns and cities across Syria, making it the most serious challenge to Assad’s rule since he came to power in 2000.

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