March 28th, 2011
07:11 PM ET

Witness: Daraa, Syria tense as troops, security forces flood city

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2011/WORLD/meast/03/28/syria.unrest/t1larg.syria.unrest.irpt.jpg caption="At least 37 people have died in violent protests since last week in Daraa, the U.N says." width=300 height=169]CNN Wire Staff

Syrian security forces flooded the restive cities of Daraa and Latakia on Monday, patrolling the streets, protecting government buildings and in at least one case clashing with protesters, according to witnesses.

Both cities have been the scene of violent clashes between protesters and security forces in recent days, with at least 37 deaths since last week, according to the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

In Daraa on Monday, forces filed into the city's main square before dawn, tearing down the tents and anti-government signs of about 100 protesters who were staying there overnight, according to one eyewitness. The forces fired shots into the air and turned water cannons on the protesters, the witness said, leading to a clash with hundreds of nearby residents who rushed to the square to defend the demonstrators.

The resulting confrontation lasted about 30 minutes, reportedly without injuries or arrests, according to the witness.

Another witness said the army was blocking the city on three sides and that security forces, surrounding government buildings and the Al-Omari mosque where some protesters remained, had opened fire. The witness was not aware of any injuries.

Syria's state-run news agency said the government denied firing on protesters, calling the allegations "completely false."

Political dissident Aman Aswad, who is in Daraa, said the city is extremely tense. "People are sitting at home scared, watching the updates on TV," he said.


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