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Syria Government denies Deera a[euro]oemass gravea[euro] as clashes with the population continue.

The Syrian government's official denial of the news today came a day after residents said villagers had found 13 bodies, including those of children and women while digging on farmland after recent protests.

According to an interior ministry official "this information is totally false". He further went on to add that these reports were part of a "campaign of incitement" against Syria.

On the other hand, Deraa residents maintain that hundreds of people have been missing since tanks and soldiers moved in last month to crush opposition to President Bashar al-Assad's 11-year rule.

Syria's situation is thus becoming more and more opaque as days go by, rendering it almost impossible to discern the truth from the lies, and as foreign journalists have been blocked from entering Syria the reports could not immediately be verified. It seems that the struggle between the regime and the civilians is now not only confined to the streets but also has become a war of words and rhetoric, which the government is finding it harder to silence.

On Monday night, thousands of demonstrators marched through the Damascus suburb of Saqba at the funeral of Ahmad Ataya, who died of wounds inflicted when security forces fired at a pro-democracy rally in the capital last month. It seems to be the biggest protest in the Damascus outskirts since a security crackdown three weeks ago.

<strong>Deera, a town concealed?</strong>

<strong><br /> </strong>In Deraa according to reports, tanks were still positioned at main city junctions and in the outskirts, and the curfew was shortened by three hours, forbidding people's access to the street from 5:00pm (1400 GMT).

Still in opposition to reports coming from the Syrian people, the official Syrian news agency said President Assad had met a delegation from Deraa and that they had discussed the "positive atmosphere there as a result of co-operation between the residents and the army".

Meanwhile it seems that demonstrations in several cities continued and are continuing overnight. Protest websites say there was unrest in Damascus, Homs, Hama, and at the university in Aleppo, while it was also reported that shelling could be heard around Tell Kalakh, near the Lebanese border.

Deraa was the first Syrian city to see anti-government protests in March, and rapidly became a symbol for the anti-government movement. However as it progressively became an epicentre for demonstrations and demonstrators, the regime's security forces launched a major operation to quell unrest in the city last month.

Residents claim that the mass grave found in the outside of the city contained the bodies of a 62-year-old man, four of his children, a woman and another child.

Ammar Qurabi, head of the National Organisation for Human Rights in Syria, first announced the news: "They discovered a mass grave in the old part of town but authorities immediately cordoned off the area to prevent residents from recovering the bodies, some of which they promised would be handed over later," he said.

<strong>A country concealed?</strong>

In the north of the country, at least 15 tanks were deployed around Arida, near the border town of Tel Kelakh, after government troops entered the city on Saturday following a new round of protests. It is reported that fearing for their lives, dozens of families fled to neighbouring Lebanon.

In Tel Kelakh activist protest groups reported at least seven civilian deaths on Sunday when troops shelled the town. On Monday, sniper fire killed one civilian raising the death toll in the army's 3-day assault to 12. The Syrian state news agency, reporting the security forces' casualties said that five soldiers were killed in confrontations with armed groups in Tel Kalakh

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Mohammad al-Dandashi told the Reuters news agency&nbsp;from the town by satellite phone that <br /> "Tel Kelakh is a ghost town. There are no doctors. Pharmacies are shut. Snipers are on the roof of the main hospital. Phones, water and electricity are cut,"

The situation in Syria is becoming more and more serious by the day. In just over two months of protests against President Bashar al-Assad's regime, more than 700 people are already reported to have died.

While the government claims to be pursuing "armed terrorist gangs", which it blames for the deaths of about 120 soldiers, security service personnel and police officers, it is clear that the Siryan people have decided to push for regime change, at any costs.

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Publication:International Business Times - US ed.
Geographic Code:7SYRI
Date:May 17, 2011
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