CAIRO — Gunfire and shelling rattled a city in central Syria yesterday and killed a 12-year-old boy as President Bashar Assad’s autocratic regime expanded its military crackdown on a seven-week uprising by sending tanks and reinforcements to key areas, activists said.
Activists said authorities also arrested a 10-year-old boy, apparently to punish his parents, and filed charges against a leading opposition figure who has cancer.
The exact circumstances of the boy’s death in the city of Homs were unclear. Like several other trouble spots, the government has answered protests there by sending in tanks and soldiers to seal it off and cutting phone service to leave it even more isolated.
The continued crackdown suggests that Assad’s regime is determined to end the uprising by force and intimidation, despite rapidly escalating international outrage and a death toll that has topped 580 civilians since the unrest began in mid-March, according to rights groups.
The government disputed the civilian toll and said about 100 soldiers have been killed.
Yesterday, the state-run news agency SANA said security forces were pursuing “armed terrorist groups’’ in the cities of Daraa, Homs, and Banias, and that six Syrian soldiers, including three officers, were killed in clashes.
The report also said 10 Syrian workers who were on their way back to Syria from Lebanon were killed in an ambush by armed terrorist groups on the Damascus-Homs highway.
The United States has imposed sanctions on three senior Syrian officials, Syria’s intelligence agency, and Iran’s Revolutionary Guard over the crackdown. The European Union is expected to impose sanctions on Syrian officials soon.
SANA said hundreds of Syrians held a demonstration yesterday in front of the US Embassy in Damascus to protest “US intervention in the country’s internal affairs.’’
The military and security forces carried out arrest sweeps and posted snipers on rooftops in flashpoints across the country yesterday, including Homs, Banias, and Daraa, where the uprising began, activists said.
BahrainBahrain’s king set a fast-track timetable to end martial law-style rule yesterday in a bid to display confidence that authorities have smothered a proreform uprising even as rights groups denounced the hard-line measures.
The announcement to lift emergency rule two weeks early on June 1 came just hours after the start of a closed-door trial accusing activists of plotting to overthrow the Gulf state’s rulers.
The decision appears part of Bahrain’s aggressive international campaign to reassure financial markets and win back high-profile events.
They include the coveted Formula One grand prix that was canceled in March amid deadly clashes and protests by the country’s majority Shi’ites, who are seeking greater rights and freedoms.
LibyaCars sat abandoned in miles-long fuel lines, motorists traded angry screams with soldiers guarding gas stations, and many shops were closed in the Libyan capital of Tripoli yesterday, on what should have been a work day.
In ever-multiplying ways, residents in the Libyan capital are feeling the sting of shortages from uprising-related disruptions of supplies.
The shortages are a dramatic sign of how Libya’s nearly 3-month-old rebellion — and the resulting chaos — is affecting daily life in Moammar Khadafy’s stronghold and other western areas of Libya still under his rule.
International sanctions have begun to bite, many supply routes are unstable, and there are shortages of skilled people in some sectors to keep the city running smoothly.
YemenSecurity forces backed by army units opened fire yesterday on protesters demanding the ouster of Yemen’s longtime president, killing three, an opposition activist said.
In all, tens of thousands of protesters mobilized in several cities and towns, according to activists — the latest installment of daily protests against President Ali Abdullah Saleh that have been staged for almost three months.
One protester was killed in the western port of Hodeida, and two were killed in the city of Taiz when elite Republican Guard forces tried to disperse protesters by firing in the air, according to activist Nouh al-Wafi.