Protesters continue to defy Syrian crackdown

Syrian security forces have opened fire on tens of thousands of anti-government protesters yesterday, reportedly killing two people.

Activists chose “patience and determination” as the theme of their latest nationwide protests.

Another theme was solidarity with a renowned political cartoonist who was badly beaten by masked gunmen on Thursday.

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The protests came on the last Friday of the holy month of Ramadan, a time many protesters hoped would serve as a breaking point for the authoritarian regime of president Bashar al-Assad. Instead, the government’s crackdown intensified dramatically.

“We are here to tell the regime that nothing is finished, nothing will finish and we will not stay at home like you want us to,” a protester said by telephone from the central city of Homs, where he said thousands had poured into the streets.

Human rights groups say Mr Assad’s forces have killed more than 2,000 people since the uprising began in mid-March.

In Hama, home-town of political cartoonist Ali Ferzat, a banner read: “Ali Ferzat, we are with you till death.”

Mr Ferzat, 60, was recovering in hospital yesterday after his attackers broke his hands and dumped him on a road outside Damascus. He earned international recognition and the respect of many Arabs with stinging caricatures that infuriated dictators including Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, Libya’s Col Muammar al-Gaddafi and, particularly in recent months, the Assad family.

The Local Co-ordination Committees, that helps organise the protests, said at least two people were killed yesterday in the eastern city of Deir el-Zour.

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