Syria reportedly set to lift emergency rule

Syrians living in Jordan protest in front of the Syrian Embassy in Amman on April 9, 2011.</p>

Syrians living in Jordan protest in front of the Syrian Embassy in Amman on April 9, 2011.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is expected to issue a decree lifting emergency rule Wednesday, according to a daily newspaper close to his regime and reported by AFP.

The Syrian cabinet approved a bill Tuesday to rescind about 50 years of emergency rule in the country, which has seen mounting protests against the government since March 15. The announcement by the cabinet was one of the various efforts by the government to mollify protesters.

The Al-Watan daily newspaper reported that Assad would bypass parliament to fast-track the emergency rule bill.

"The presidency of the republic will today enact three decrees on the lifting of the emergency law, the abolition of the State Security Court and the regulation of peaceful demonstrations," an unnamed senior official told the daily as reported by AFP. "This package is part of a strategic program of political reforms aimed at strengthening the democratic process, broadening citizen participation (in politics), consolidating national unity and the security of the homeland and its citizens."

Protesters have been demanding repeal of the emergency law, which restricts civil liberties and makes it easy for the state to arrest demonstrators.

Human rights groups, however, have since said that repeal of the law will not be enough to satisfy the demands of the protesters.

About 220 people have been killed by security officers or police over the past month.

Meanwhile, the chief of security police in Banias was dismissed Wednesday after a crackdown in his city on protesters led to the deaths of five civilians last week, Reuters reports.

Residents in the city identified the chief, Amjad Abbas, via a video as one of the officers involved in the beating of a civilian.

The Syrian government has vacillated between crackdown and suggestions of compromise since the demonstrations began more than a month ago. Only hours after the cabinet approved the bill on the emergency law, authorities arrested a prominent opposition figure, Mahmoud Issa, the New York Times reports.

Earlier Tuesday, the police, army and other security forces in Homs crushed one of Syria's biggest protests yet.

"The events punctuated a tumultuous day in a monthlong uprising that, like Egypt’s, has the potential to rework the arithmetic of a Middle East shaken with dissent," the Times states.

Read more from GlobalPost on the protests sweeping the Middle East.