Anti-regime protesters scattered on Wednesday after their demonstration near a Syrian government building in the southern city of Sweida was hit by a spray of bullets, activists and local journalists said.
Sweida has been rocked by weeks of rallies against the Syrian government, first criticizing worsening living conditions but then spreading to include calls for President Bashar al-Assad to step down.
Assad’s decision last month to double public sector wages and pensions further skyrocketed inflation and fueled ongoing protests that shook the southern Druze-majority province of Sweida and nearby Daraa
مراسل السويداء 24: تسجيل ثلاث إصابات كحصيلة أولية لإطلاق النار من عناصر حزب البعث في مدينة السويداء. الإصابات كانت متوسطة بالرصاص الحي والشظايا، وتم نقل المصابين إلى مشفيي شهبا والسويداء. pic.twitter.com/8hPkRSWqSm— السويداء 24 (@suwayda24) September 13, 2023
Initially sparked by deepening economic misery, angry residents in greater numbers began to call for the fall of Assad, similar to that of the country's 2011 uprising that turned into an all-out civil war.
Sweida, a city of over 100,000 people, has remained in government hands during the conflict and its Druze minority has long resisted being drawn into a civil war that pits mainly rebels drawn from Syria's majority Sunni population against Assad’s rule.
As the conflict, now in its 13th year, reached a stalemate Syrian regimet reclaimed large swathes of lost territory with the help of its key allies in Russia and Iran in recent years.
The U.N. estimates that some 300,000 civilians died during the first decade of the uprising, while half of the pre-war population of 23 million were displaced.