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February 4, 2012

Iran bans citizens from road travel to Syria


February 4, 2012

DAMASCUS: Protesters flooded towns and cities across Syria defying a brutal government crackdown on Friday to commemorate the notorious 1982 massacre in the city of Hama that killed tens of thousands.
At least 17 people were reported killed on Friday, including eight soldiers, activists said. In Hama’s central neighbourhood of Junub al-Malaab, security forces opened fire on demonstrators, killing at least one and wounding three more, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
It reported two more killed by security force fire in Daraya in Damascus province and said at least another five people were killed — among them two children — across the country. The Britain-based group said the eight soldiers were killed in clashes in the southern Daraa province with fighters of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), made up of defectors and sympathisers.
Another soldier was also killed earlier in the village of Jasem, also in Daraa province. Protesters emerged from Friday prayers in the port of Latakia where security forces opened fire to disperse them, the Observatory said, reporting a similar demonstration in Yabrod in Damascus province. Under the slogan “Hama, forgive us,” regime opponents had urged protesters to wear black and march in honour of the estimated 10,000 to 40,000 people who died in the massacre ordered by Hafez, father of President Bashar al-Assad. Demonstrators turned out in their thousands in Hama itself, Idlib in the north, Daraa in the south and in Damascus province.
“Hafez is dead, Hama is not! Bashar will die and Syria will not!” read placards brandished by protesters in the Al-Kidam district of Damascus, according to an Internet video posted by militants. “Collective punishment won’t work this time!” read another.
Rallies were also staged on Thursday in memory of the Hama victims as Western and Arab countries sought to reach agreement on a draft UN resolution to pressure Syria to end its almost

11-month crackdown on dissent.
Meanwhile, Iran banned its citizens on Friday from travelling to Syria by road following the abduction of nearly 30 Iranians in the escalating uprising in its key Middle East ally, state media reported.
“Due to the terrorist acts against Iranian pilgrims who are taking road trips to the holy sites in Syria, from Friday and until further notice road trips to this destination are forbidden,” the head of Iran’s passport and immigration police, Mahmoud Sadeqi, told the official IRNA news agency.
Sadeqi appealed to nationals to travel to Syria, a major pilgrimage destination for Iran’s Shiite majority, only by plane. Eleven Iranian pilgrims were kidnapped last Wednesday in the central Syrian city of Hama, IRNA reported. Another 11 were reported abducted on January 26. A group of seven Iranian engineers were kidnapped near the central city of Homs in late December, bringing the total to 29, according to IRNA.
Last week, the rebel Free Syrian Army claimed to have captured five Iranian military officers in Homs, and urged Tehran to withdraw any other troops it may have in Syria. It was not clear whether the five referred to were among the seven abducted engineers or were a separate group. Tehran has called on Damascus “to use all means... to release” the captive Iranians. caption
TRIPOLI: Lebanese and Syrian protesters chant slogans and carry pre-Baath Party Syrian flags during a protest in solidarity with Syria’s anti-government protesters here on Friday.

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