BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian students chanting for revolution marched outside the capital and other areas after class Thursday in a new tactic that brought a swift response from security services, who beat up or detained many of the young protesters, activists said.
Children as young as 10 have been taking to the streets since the new school year started on Sunday, according to witnesses and online videos posted by activists. It appears to be the first major attempt to bring out the country's schoolchildren to join the 6-month-old uprising.
Girls chanting, "revolution is bright, the regime is dark," marched in the Damascus suburb of Zabadani, according to the Local Coordination Committees, an activist group. Another student protest in the northwestern village of Mhambal came under attack by security forces and pro-regime gunmen who beat some students and detained parents, the group said.
Students also were detained in the southern village of Dael.
A video posted by activists online showed more than two dozen young students gathered in a street in the Damascus suburbs chanting, "the people want the president executed" and "we will only kneel to God."
The Associated Press could not independently verify the videos or the accounts of violence. Syria has banned most foreign journalists and restricted local media during the revolt.
The Syrian uprising began in mid-March, inspired by the Arab revolutions that have driven out autocratic rulers in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. President Bashar Assad has unleashed a deadly crackdown that the U.N. estimates has killed some 2,600 people.
Assad insists the unrest is being driven by terrorists acting out a foreign conspiracy to fracture Syria. The also regime disputes the accounts of civilian deaths and says 1,400 people have been killed, evenly split between security forces and the opposition.
Thursday's protests came a day after security forces detained dozens of protesting students in the southern village of Jassem. Also Wednesday, security forces surrounded several schools in the Damascus suburbs of Harasta, Arbeen and Zamalka, according to the LCC.
An amateur video posted online Wednesday showed people running away in a street in the town of Qusair near the border with Lebanon as cracks of gunfire could be heard. A man could be heard shouting "they are shooting at students in the city of Qusair."
Another video showed the funeral of a school teacher identified as Jihad Haji who was said to have been shot by security forces. Young mourners could be heard chanting "there is no God but God, Assad is the enemy of God" as they carried his coffin in the areas of Waer near the central city of Homs.
In other unrest Thursday, the state-run news agency said an armed group ambushed a bus with policemen, killing five and wounding 18 officers in the southern province of Daraa where the uprising began six months ago.
Skirmishes also were reported Thursday in Homs, a flashpoint area in central Syria that has seen massive protests.
The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least one person was shot dead by security forces Thursday in Homs. The LCC said three were killed in Homs.
It was impossible to resolve the discrepancy or to independently verify the death toll.
Thursday's protests came a day after U.S. President Barack Obama called on the U.N. Security Council to impose sanctions on Syria because of the deadly crackdown. He told the U.N. General Assembly Wednesday, "There is no excuse for inaction."
Bassem Mroue can be reached at http://twitter.com/bmroue