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Red Cross visits Syrian jail, raids near Turkey

Sep 5, 2011, 5:22 p.m.
Syria's President Bashar al-Assad (L) meets Jakob Kellenberger, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), in Damascus September 5, 2011, in this handout photograph released by Syria's national news agency SANA. REUTERS/Sana/Handout

Nine other civilians were killed in assaults on the city of Homs and its countryside, where tanks deployed four months ago after large protests demanding Assad's removal.

Four employees of the state-owned Syrian Petroleum Transport Company where also killed in Homs when unknown gunmen opened fire on a bus carrying them, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, headed by dissident in exile Rami Abdelrahman, added in statement.

British Prime Minister David Cameron told parliament Assad had lost all legitimacy, joining the United States, France and other European countries that have said he must leave for Syria to become a democracy after four decades of autocratic rule.

Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby will visit Syria on Wednesday, Egypt's news agency MENA reported on Monday. Elaraby had said the visit would be used to pass on Arab worries about the Syrian authorities' violent crackdown on protests against Assad's rule.

Protests again erupted in several large towns across southern Syria after evening prayers on Monday, activists and residents said, citing the towns of Hirak, Inkhil, Jeza, Museifra and Teba where protesters numbering in the hundreds to thousands marched in anti -Assad demonstrations.

Frequency of protests in the countryside around Deraa have picked up this last week since the end of Ramadan, according to residents who say no longer restricted to Fridays as before.

In Deraa city, cradle of the uprising, heavy army and security presence made it more difficult for protesters to take to the streets but residents reported several smaller demonstrations in some neighborhoods in which hundreds of youths took part, they said.

FLEEING TO TURKEY

In the northwestern province of Idlib, Adelsalam Hassoun, 24, a blacksmith, was killed by army snipers on Monday just after he had crossed into Turkey from the village of Ain al-Baida on the Syrian side, his cousin told Reuters by telephone from Syria.

"Abdelsalam was hit in the head. He was among a group of family members and other refugees who dashed across the plain to Turkey when six armored personnel carrier deployed outside Ain al-Baida and started firing their machineguns into the village at random this morning," Mohammad Hassoun said

Thousands of families fled their homes in the northern border region in June when troops assaulted town and villages that had seen big protests against Assad.

Faced with a heavy security presence in central neighborhoods of Damascus and Aleppo, and military assaults against a swathe of cities from Latakia on the coast to Deir al-Zor in the East, street rallies calling for an end to the Assad family's domination of Syria have intensified in towns and villages across the country of 20 million.

Demonstrators have been encouraged by the fall of Libya's Muammar Gaddafi and growing international pressure on Assad. The European Union has imposed an embargo on Syrian oil exports, jeopardizing a major source of revenue for Assad, who inherited power from his father, the late Hafez al-Assad, in 2000.

"Economic pressure will be key in swaying the merchant class toward the side of the uprising, but Assad will keep adopting the military solution and deploying heavy weapons across Syria," said Syrian dissident in exile Bassam al-Bitar.

"International intervention, something akin to a no-fly zone, will still be needed to protect protests and encourage more members of the army to defect," Bitar, a former diplomat, told Reuters from Washington.

(Additional reporting by Suleiman al-Khalidi, Adrian Croft in London and Mahmoud Habbous in Dubai,; Editing by Michael Roddy)

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