Hundreds of Syrian soldiers stormed the Damascus suburb of Saqba and rounded up residents, witnesses said May 5. Sweeps were also reported from the Homs suburb of Rastan, where security forces shot dead at least 17 demonstrators six days earlier. The protests were sparked after 50 local members of the governing Baath Party resigned. Activists say at least 1,000 people have been arrested across the country since then. Among the detained is AlJazeera reporter Dorothy Parvaz.
President Bashir Assad has pledged to end the military operation “very soon” in the southern flashpoint city of Daraa, where the army has deployed tanks and snipers for more than a week. “The mission of the army units that entered Daraa on the 25th of last month will end very soon,” he was quoted as saying by the private al-Watan newspaper. (AlJazeera, May 5)
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has called for better humanitarian access to Daraa, where food, water and medical supplies are running short. “The violence has resulted in a large number of casualties and we fear that if the situation worsens, more lives will be lost,” said Marianne Gasser, head of the ICRC delegation in Damascus. “It is urgent that emergency medical services, first aid workers and others performing life saving tasks swiftly reach those in need.” The warning came days after the UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution calling on the Syrian government to end rights violations, protect its population, allow access to the Internet and telecommunications networks, and lift censorship on reporting. (IRIN, May 5)