DAMASCUS: Thirty-eight people were killed in clashes in two days in northwest Syria, a rights activist said on Sunday, as dissidents meeting in Brussels called for the isolation of President Bashar al-Assad.
“Thirty-eight people were killed in shootings in the region of Jisrash Shughur, 10 yesterday and 28 today,” Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told AFP.
The updated toll includes six members of the Syrian security forces.
Rahman earlier gave a toll of 25 - 19 civilians and six security agents - but warned that number could rise as military and security forces continued operations in the northwest Idlib province.
Residents of the central city of Hama, where at least 53 people were reported killed during anti-regime protests on Friday, said nearly 100,000 people were staging a protest during a three-day strike that began on Saturday.
On Saturday, an activist in Jisrash Shughur said “security forces opened fire to scatter more than 1,000 demonstrators protesting after the funeral of a civilian killed on Friday” in protests at the nearby village of Has.
Syria's official SANA news agency reported at the time that “a member of the army was killed and a policeman injured in clashes” in Jisrash Shughur.
“Armed groups attacked a police station and military barracks in the area” and one assailant was killed, SANA said.
Rights groups say more than 1,100 civilians have been killed and at least 10,000 arrested in Syria since protests erupted in mid-March.
Damascus insists that the unrest is the work of “armed terrorist gangs”backed by Islamists and foreign agitators.
Syria has freed more than 450 political prisoners and prisoners of conscience since Tuesday as part of a general amnesty announced by Assad, Rahman told AFP on Sunday. Most of the released are Islamists or Kurds, he added.
Syrian Prime Minister Adel Safar, meanwhile, ordered the creation of a committee tasked with drafting a law on political parties, SANA reported.
The current constitution stipulates that the ruling Baath party is “the leader of state and society” and political pluralism has been at the forefront of demands by pro-reform dissidents.
In Europe, Syrian opposition activists urged the international community to increase pressure on Assad and called for an independent investigation into his regime's deadly crackdown.
The roughly 200 activists gathered in Brussels also said charges should be laid against those responsible for violations of human rights in the repression, and cases brought before the International Criminal Court.
“There needs to be more pressure on the regime,” organisers of the Brussels meeting said in a statement.
“It is very important to impose diplomatic isolation on the Syrian regime, and to not allow it to be represented in international bodies,” added the grouping, called the National Coalition of Support for the Syrian Revolution.
The European Union and the United States have already imposed sanctions on Assad and his inner circle.
The coalition dismissed as a “farce” Assad's creation of a body tasked with creating a national dialogue.
A final resolution from the Brussels meeting announced the creation of a commission to evaluate human rights violations by the regime with the purpose of laying charges and sending cases to the International Criminal Court.
It said the coalition also wanted to “communicate with international organisations with the aim of coming up with a resolution condemning the violence by the Syrian regime.”
At a similar meeting in the Mediterranean resort of Antalya in Turkey on Wednesday and Thursday, opposition groups urged Assad's immediate resignation and the holding of parliamentary and presidential elections within a year.
Syria's Foreign Minister Walid Muallem, meanwhile, made a brief visit to the United Arab Emirates where he met Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammad bin Zayed al-Nahayan.
“The demands of reform and the need for stability can go hand in hand as they can be reconciled,” the official WAM news agency reported Sheikh Mohammad as saying.