Syria

Syrian protesters defy arrests with sit-in call

Reuters/Charles Platiau

Syrian protesters pledged on Wednesday to press ahead with their "revolution" despite the reported arrest of over 1,000 people so far this week. France has called for sanctions against President Bashar al-Assad.

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"We must continue our peaceful revolution throughout Syria until we achieve the freedom we demand," said the committee coordinating the anti-government protests in a string of cities.

They include Daraa, where about 150 students held a brief sit-in at the university, Banias on the Mediterranean coast and the central industrial city of Homs.

"Live ammunition fired into the crowds has not stopped the young people from continuing to demonstrate,” an opposition statement declared. "The crowds are only growing in size and momentum. The government's fierce campaign of arbitrary mass arrests will not succeed where their bullets have failed."

At least 500 people are being arrested every day on average, it added.

The civilian death toll from the unprecedented demonstrations in Syria has topped 607 since 15 March 15, according to Syria's Insan human rights group, which says as many as 8,000 people are now listed as arrested or missing.

A Facebook post by the Syrian Revolution 2011 website had urged "Syrians in all regions to gather from Tuesday evening in all public places to organise sit-ins" round the clock.

France is going to “push for the adoption of the harshest possible sanctions”, President Nicolas Sarkozy toldL'Express magazine.

Foreign Minister Alain Juppé said France wants Assad to be specifically named in European Union sanctions.

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