Anti-government protesters in Syria's southern city of Daraa called Monday for citizens to join a rally to mourn those who died in clashes with police over the past three days.
Hundreds of black-uniformed security forces wielding AK-47 assault rifles lined the streets but did not confront thousands of mourners who marched at the funeral of 23-year-old Raed al-Kerad, a protester killed in Deraa, although according to Reuters the authorities did not use force to quell the latest protest.
Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch accused Syrian authorities of using "excessive force" in a crackdown on anti-regime protesters that killed five people in Daraa, 60 miles south of the capital Damascus.
The U.S.-based rights group said in a statement: "Syria should cease use of live fire and other excessive force against protesters."
Agence France-Presse quoted Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW's Middle East and North Africa director, as saying "The Syrian government has shown no qualms about shooting dead its own citizens for speaking out. Syrians have shown incredible courage in daring to protest publicly against one of the most repressive governments in the region, and they shouldn't have to pay with their lives."
Syria is a police state known for its brutal suppression of public protests, had seemed immune to the wave of uprisings sweeping the Arab world, writes The New York Times. But demonstrations have taken place in several cities over the past week.
On Friday, four people were reportedly killed in Daraa Protesters were demanding that the U.S., France and international human rights organizations condemn the Syrian regime’s use of violence against civilians.as Syrian security forces sought to quell anti-government protests.
Then on Sunday, one person was reportedly killed and at least 100 were wounded when security force opened fire at mass funerals for those killed Friday.
Protesters on Sunday also torched several government buildings in Daraa, including an office of the Baath Party, which has ruled the country since 1963, according to DPA.
They also reportedly burnt down a number of offices of the telecommunications company Syriatel which is partially owned by Ramy Makhlouf, a cousin of President Bashar al-Assad.
According to the Jerusalem Post, the use of live ammunition against protesters is an indicator of the regime’s vulnerability.
"In Egypt and Tunisia, elements of the regime were able to enter into a certain dialogue with the protesters," the paper writes in an analysis. "Unpopular regime figureheads were replaced, while the military went on to steward the process of reform.
"In Syria, the regime has less room to maneuver. The Assad family dictatorship may count with some confidence on the support only of its fellow Alawis — around 12 percent of the population. The regime maintains its grip not through the seeking of legitimacy, but through the imposition of fear."