79 people allegedly killed in Syria with draft law of decentralization approved

13:21, August 01, 2011      

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A total of 79 Syrians were said to have been killed in several cities in clashes with security forces Sunday, while the Cabinet ratified a draft law to give a greater say in various fields to local governments and the public.

Abdul-Karim al-Rihawi, head of the Syrian League for Human Rights, told Xinhua by phone that 62 civilians were killed by security forces in the Hama city of central Syria, which was raided by the army from the dawn on Sunday.

Meanwhile, al-Jazeera TV, citing witnesses and activists, said the Syrian army backed by tanks stormed Hama from four sides with heavy gunfire after a nearly one-month-long siege.

Al-Rihawi also said 12 people were killed in the northeastern province of Deir al-Zour, and another civilian in al-Bukamal city, which is close to Deir al-Zour.

Still another four civilians were killed in the southern province of Daraa, the epicenter of anti-government protests, according to Al-Rihawi.

"The Syrian government seems to resort to an armed handling of the crisis instead of a political one," said al-Rihawi.

The report, however, could not be independently verified as there was no official information on civilian casualties.

Syrian President Bashar Assad said he was ultimately confident that Syria would undermine "this new chapter of conspiracy," which he said aimed at "dividing the country as a prelude for dividing the entire region to conflicting states."

Assad reasserted that his country was subject to sectarian sedition, but the Syrian people were aware to what was being intrigued against them and were able to "bury sedition."

Meanwhile, the official SANA news agency said the military entered Hama to purge armed groups that were terrorizing citizens.

Gunmen had torched police stations, smashed public and private properties, erected barricades and sand barriers and set tires ablaze in Hama, said SANA, adding army units were now working to eliminate barriers and barricades.

In Deir al-Zour, SANA said armed groups had cut off some roads and erected barriers in city streets, adding law enforcement forces had engaged those groups and hunted them down.

Syria's Interior Ministry, in a statement, said eight law enforcement forces were killed by "armed terrorist groups" in Hama.

The statement said armed groups started their operations at dawn against official and security centers in Hama in an attempt to kill and kidnap officials and security troops, adding the gunmen also opened fire randomly to threaten local residents.

Several gunmen were killed in the clashes, it said.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon voiced his deep concerns over the latest violence in Syria.

He strongly condemned the use of force against civilians and called on the Syrian government to immediately halt the violence.

U.S. President Barack Obama called the security forces' latest raids in Syria "horrifying," saying Assad was "completely incapable and unwilling" to respond to legitimate grievances of the Syrian people.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said the attacks were "all the more shocking" on the eve of Ramadan which starts on Monday and appeared to be part of a coordinated effort to put off Syrians from protesting during the Muslim holy month.

Meantime, the Syrian Cabinet approved a draft law that ensures decentralization of authority and shifts more power and responsibilities to the public.

The draft law provides rights to local administration councils in a way that enables them to more freely perform their duties of developing administrative units economically, socially and culturally.

It is one of the series of new laws introduced by the Syrian Cabinet as part of the reforms announced by President Assad to meet the Syrian people's aspirations for broader democracy and reforms. The Cabinet recently endorsed the multi-party and election laws.

Syria has been in unrest since mid-March when anti-government protests broke out in Daraa province and spread to other cities.

Syrian authorities blame the unrest on "armed groups and foreign conspiracy" and stress they will track down gunmen who have intimidated people and damaged public and private properties.

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