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Syria detains hundreds, hindering protesters' efforts to organize

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The widespread arrests and climbing death toll have sent activists into hiding at a time when the leaderless uprising was expected to begin coalescing behind figureheads, according to the Associated Press. Turnout for Friday's protests across the country was 30 percent lower than for the previous week's protests, at least partially because of security forces' use of detention and intimidation. Estimates of the number of detained run as high as 10,000.

According to a statement from SANA News Agency, which carries government statements, more than 900 people have "turned themselves in" for their involvement in "riot acts." The statement said that there will be no punishment for those who hand themselves over prior to May 15.

However, an opposition figure told the Guardian that hostility to President Bashar al-Assad's rule has grown so much that it will be impossible to crush. When the protests first began, protesters were demanding an end to emergency rule and other forms of repression, but not the end of Assad's rule. Now, his removal is a common demand.

"The shocks of the military campaign are being absorbed," he said. "We have seen that as soon as the Army withdraws or lessens its presence in one area to crush people elsewhere, protests erupt in the area the forces had left."

The government continues to blame the unrest and deaths – including those of 10 civilians who were killed Sunday in an ambush on a bus returning from Lebanon – on "armed terrorists."

However, Al Jazeera reported that observers in Homs, which is near where the ambush took place, doubted the government's account. The Army and security force presence is particularly heavy in that area, they said, and "scores" of protests had been killed over the weekend.

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