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      Daraa Unexpectedly Quiet After A Week of Bloody Clashes

      The streets of Daraa, Syria are unexpectedly quiet after week long bloody clashes leave 44 civilians and at least 7 police dead.
      By Gabe Kahn.
      First Publish: 3/25/2011, 12:25 PM / Last Update: 3/25/2011, 1:40 PM

      The streets of Daraa, Syria are unexpectedly quiet after week long bloody clashes between security forces and demonstrators leave 44 civilians and at least 7 police dead, the Washington Post reports.

      Tens of thousands of Syrians poured onto the streets of Daraa after security forces stormed the Omari mosque, killing fifteen, on Wednesday, but today, while muzzeins call out from minarets for the faithful to attend the funerals of the slain, only small groups have gathered.

      But Friday security forces were seemingly absent from the incendiary southern town, and, as anger mounts throughout Syria, Assad has made a rare public pledge to look into granting Syrians greater freedom.

      But Haitham Maleh, who was released from prison earlier this month under an amnesty for older political prisoners, says the concessions do not go far enough and his countrymen are ready for a revolution.

      The 80-year-old lawyer is one of Syria's most prominent human rights campaigners, and he has suffered for it. He told ABC News, "They punished me many times, yes. I spent half of my life in jails."

      Maleh says Syria is about to explode. "We are like a bomb, it's nearly to explosion. They said that they will do something. We heard this speech since 10 years and they did not do anything on the ground."

      "Through this regime nothing will be changed," Maleh said of Assad's regime. "This regime [is] like cancer and they want no medical. It needs surgery."

      The Syrian regime, which maintains 15 separate intelligence services, appears desperate to make more concessions.

      Last week, Assad's government announced the term for military service was being cut by three months. Now there is talk of a possible end to 48 years of emergency rule; even laws to provide for media freedoms and allow political movements other than the Baath Party, which has ruled Syria alone since 1963.

      The government has also authorized a 20 to 30 per cent pay rise for public servants to shore up their loyalty across the country.

      Facebook protests were planned in Daraa and in the nation’s capital, Damascus, for Friday afternoon. Organizers have dubbed the day a “Day of Dignity.”

      But following the noon prayers mass protests did not materialize. In Damascus some 200 people marched in the center of Syria's capital after prayers in surrport of the city of Daraa, a witness told Reuters.

      "We sacrifice our blood, our soul, for you Deraa," they chanted as they were met by President Bashar Assad loyalists chanting in support of the Syrian leader.

      Witnesses said secret police broke the demonstration up, arresting dozens of marchers.    Witnesses said secret police broke the demonstration up, arresting dozens of marchers.Witnesses said secret police broke the demonstration up, arresting dozens of marchers.     Witnesses reported secret police broke up the demonstration and arrested dozens of particiants.

      In his Friday sermon in Daraa, influential cleric Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi urged Arabs to support Syria's protesters. "Today the train of revolution has reached a station that it had to reach: The Syria station," he said. "It is not possible for Syria to be separated from the history of the Arab community."

      But after prayers, while people gathered after prayers, no demonstrations materialized in Daraa, which remains sealed off by security forces. "There is a sense of demoralization among the protesters," said a resident of the city in southern Syria near the border with Jordan. " Especially if no other cities in Syria rise up."

       Without unrest akin to that seen in Daraa in during the previous week spreading throughout Syria, however, it remains unclear whether or not the regime of 45 year old Bashar al-Assad is in existential danger.