Beirut: Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, facing a wave of protests against his 11-year rule, issued a decree on Tuesday granting a general amnesty, state television said.
It said the amnesty covered all members of political movements including the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.
At least 23 anti-government demonstrators have been killed and many others injured during an assault by Syrian security forces that began two days ago on the central city of Homs and surrounding towns.
The protesters died as government forces backed by tanks, artillery and helicopters continued a crackdown on rallies that began in mid-March, attacking the towns of Talbiseh and Rastan near Homs, said Mahmoud Merhi, head of the Arab Organization for Human Rights.
Security forces killed 15 people in Talbiseh and four in Rastan, he said. Three protesters were killed in Hrak, which is part of the Daraa governorate in the south where the unrest began, and one person died in Aleppo.
Syrian security forces have killed more than 1,100 demonstrators and detained more than 10,000 people since rallies against the government of President Bashar Al-Assad began, according to Merhi and Ammar Qurabi, head of Syria’s National Organization for Human Rights.
Protests in Homs, Talbiseh and Rastan have lasted into the night, with demonstrators chanting “God is great” even as army tanks moved into the towns and cut off water and electricity, said a resident of the city who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal.
The death of Hamzah al-Khateeb, a 13-year-old boy from the village of al-Jiza near Daraa, has fueled protesters’ anger, Merhi said. A video dated May 25 posted on YouTube shows the boy’s tortured and mutilated swollen body with cuts, bruises, burns and bullet holes as well as broken jaw and kneecaps.
President Assad initially promised reforms in response to the protests, which followed popular uprisings that ousted rulers in Tunisia and Egypt. Those pledges haven’t been repeated in recent weeks as security forces stepped up their crackdown. Agencies