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Syrian government pledges fail to impress opposition


Syria

Syrian government pledges fail to impress opposition

Thousands of people in Syria turned out on Thursday for the funerals of demonstrators shot dead by security forces the day before.

Human rights groups estimated the crowd in the southern city of Deraa to be 20,000 strong.

The government said 10 people died in Wednesday’s violence; witnesses and activists put the figure as high as 100. Reports suggest security forces have pulled back from a mosque where several people had been killed.

The government has moved to quell unrest by pledging major reforms. President Bashar al-Assad’s advisor, Bouthaina Shaaban, said the authorities would consider lifting Syria’s decades-old state of emergency. There are also promises to free prisoners, bolster press freedom and allow other political parties.

But opposition figures say they have heard this before, and nothing changed.

Witnesses in Deraa say that on Thursday security forces fired on the crowds deliberately. Shots can be heard on amateur film footage posted on the internet, and bodies are then seen lying on the ground.

The president’s advisor denied orders were given to shoot, but admitted mistakes may have been made. She blamed foreign media for exaggerating the scale of the violence.

Opposition sources have dismissed a government offer to set up a committee to investigate and bring the perpetrators to justice.

Instead there are calls for more demonstrations on Friday throughout the country.

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