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Syrian, Bahraini, Yemeni Governments Continue Efforts to Thwart Uprisings

June 3, 2011 at 12:00 AM EST
Fighting intensified Friday around the Middle East as governments tried to overpower popular uprisings around the region. Jeffrey Brown reports on the continuing turmoil in the Arab world.
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JIM LEHRER: Governments in three Middle Eastern nations try to put down popular uprisings.

Jeffrey Brown has our update.

JEFFREY BROWN: It was a major escalation of the fighting in Sana’a. Rockets blasted the presidential compound in the Yemeni capital, wounding President Ali Abdullah Saleh and killing at least six guards. Saleh was reportedly moved to a military hospital for treatment, but a government spokesman said the injuries were light.

ABDU AL-JANADI, Yemeni deputy information minister (through translator): President Ali Abdullah Saleh is in good health. He will be well, God willing, and in the near future, he will appear in front of the people.

JEFFREY BROWN: Saleh was heard, but not seen, late today in a taped audio address to his countrymen. He saluted his forces fighting what he called an outlaw gang unrelated to the so-called youth revolution.

The U.S. denounced what it called senseless violence and urged restraint. But there was little of that in evidence. Members of the Hashid tribe, Yemen’s largest, have been fighting openly with the Saleh regime for most of the last two weeks.

Today’s rocket attack was the first time the fighters directly targeted his palace. It followed assaults by government forces that flattened the homes of Hashid leaders, including brothers of Sheikh Sadeq Al-Ahmar, the tribe’s chieftain.

Elsewhere in Sana’a, thousands marched in support of Saleh, who faces not only tribal opponents, but pro-reform protesters and Islamist militants. The Yemeni leader did agree in late April to step down after 33 years in power, but he has since reneged on the deal three times, most recently last week.

Meanwhile, in Syria, the regime of Bashar al-Assad continued its violent campaign against nationwide protests. At least 34 more Syrians were killed in the city of Hama today. The marches were, in part, to commemorate the brutal torture and murder of a 13-year-old boy, Hamza al-Khatib, allegedly by Syrian security forces.

His badly disfigured and mutilated body was returned to his parents this week.

SECRETARY OF STATE HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON: The tragedy of the young boy Hamza Ali al-Khatib symbolizes for many people around the world the total collapse of any effort by the Assad government to work with their own people.

JEFFREY BROWN: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton weighed in yesterday with a new warning to the Syrian leader.

HILLARY CLINTON: If he cannot end the violence against his own people, take meaningful steps to start a process of reform, then he needs to get out of the way.

JEFFREY BROWN: Earlier in the week, Assad promised amnesty to thousands of prisoners arrested in the three-month uprising. But there’s been no letup in the campaign that’s killed more than 1,000 civilians.

Elsewhere, police in the island kingdom of Bahrain also opened fire today on marchers there. They used tear gas and rubber bullets against people trying to get to Pearl Square, where protests began in February. The Sunni-led government crushed the mostly Shiite uprising in March, but lifted its state of emergency this week. Still, a heavy and visible police presence remains on the streets.