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Syrian army kills 10, arrests 500 in crackdown

Syrian regime clamps down, killing 10 and arresting 500 in house-to-house searches.

Syria crackdown 2011 5 2Enlarge
Syrian anti-government protesters hold banners calling for an end to a military siege in Nawa near the southern town of Daraa, the epicentre of protests that have shaken President Bashar al-Assad's once uncontested rule, on April 28, 2011. A defiant Syria vowed to restore 'security and stability' despite growing international censure for its violent crushing of dissent. (AFP/Getty Images/AFP/Getty Images)

Syrian security forces killed 10 people and arrested 499 others in house-to-house raids in the city of Deraa, the cradle of the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, the state news agency reported Monday.

After the army took control of the city with tanks at the weekend, security forces went house to house on Monday, arresting men aged 15 to 40 and taking them away in handcuffs and hoods, residents told news agency Reuters.

Human rights groups now say that 560 people have been killed across the country during the six-week-old uprising against the authoritarian rule of President al-Assad.

The state news agency SANA reported that army units had tracked down “terrorist groups that have terrorized civilians (in Deraa) ... and killed 10 of its members and arrested 499 of them.”

The men who were arrested were taken away by bus to detention centers, residents told Reuters.

On Sunday, British Prime Minister David Cameron denounced the "disgraceful" crackdown against pro-democracy activists, the BBC reported.

This came as the Syrian regime offered amnesty to citizens “misled” into protesting. If they turned themselves in within the next two weeks, they would have exemption from prosecution, the government said.

Human rights campaigers said that hundreds of pro-democracy sympathizers had been arrested since Sunday in an attempt to quell the revolt.

“They are continuing their arrest operation in all the cities of Syria. They have lists and they are going into houses looking for people,” activist Ammar Qurabi told Reuters. “These are arbitrary arrests, it is happening without a warrant. We do not know what their charges are. Nobody knows.”

SANA also quoted an army source as saying that as well as the 10 dead, security forces killed five snipers who were shooting at pedestrians. The source told SANA that two members of the security forces were also killed in clashes.

Syrian protesters deny that they have weapons and are using them in the unrest, targeting 48 years of Baath Party domination in Syria and inspired by other popular Arab revolts that have overthrown the leaders of Tunisia and Egypt this year.

Prominent rights campaigners were also arrested in the eastern cities of Qamishli, Raqqa and in suburbs of Damascus, along with scores of ordinary Syrians active in the mass protests demanding political freedoms and an end to corruption, Reuters reported.

Despite the crackdown, Syrians in several cities have kept up their protests. In the central city of Homs, thousands marched on Sunday chanting "downfall of the regime!"

Foreign media are banned from Syria, making it harder to confirm accounts of events in the country.