AMMAN (Reuters) – Dozens of protesters angered by deteriorating economic conditions in Syria stormed and looted the governor’s office in the southern city of Sweida on Sunday, sparking clashes with police, authorities said and witnesses.
Earlier, more than 200 people had gathered around the Druze-majority building in the center of the city and chanted slogans calling for the ouster of Syrian President Bashar Assad, they said, amid rising prices and economic hardship.
“Down with Assad,” shouted the crowd. Anti-government protests in state-controlled areas in Syria are not tolerated and are rare.
Syrian state media reported that dozens of “outlaws” stormed the governor’s office and burned files and official papers.
The Interior Ministry said they also attempted to seize the city’s police headquarters and one police officer was killed in the ensuing clashes.
“We will prosecute all outlaws and take all legal action against anyone who dares to undermine the security and stability of the province,” the government statement said.
Three witnesses told Reuters the governor was not in the building, which was cleared before protesters stormed and looted offices.
“The governor’s office was completely burned down from the inside,” said Rayan Maarouf, a citizen activist and editor of Suwayda 24, a local website covering the southern region, saying several people were injured in the exchange of fire.
“There was heavy gunfire,” Maarouf told Reuters, saying it was not clear where the shooting in the heavily monitored area came from.
A source at the city hospital said a civilian being treated died from gunshot wounds while another was still hospitalized after being shot.
Sweida province has been spared the violence seen elsewhere in Syria since the start of the more than decade-long conflict, which began after pro-democracy protests against Assad’s family rule erupted and were violently crushed by security forces.
The minority Druze sect, whose faith has its roots in Islam, has long resisted being drawn into the Syrian conflict, which is pitted against mainly Sunni rebels against Assad’s rule.
Many community leaders and senior Druze religious leaders have refused to authorize conscription into the army.
Syria is in a deep economic crisis, with the majority of the people struggling to afford food and basic goods after a devastating conflict that has killed hundreds of thousands and displaced millions.
Witnesses in Sweida told Reuters that inside the building, protesters brought down pictures of Assad.
https://nypost.com/2022/12/04/protesters-storm-governors-office-in-sweida-syria/ Demonstrators storm the governor’s office in Sweida, Syria