Timeline: Syrian government resigns after protests

(Reuters) – Here is a timeline of events in Syria since the protests started earlier this month.

Syria has been under emergency law since the Baath Party, took power in 1963 and banned all opposition.

March 16 – Security forces break up a silent gathering in Marjeh square in Damascus of about 150 protesters who held up pictures of imprisoned relatives and friends.

— The next day human rights group Amnesty International condemns the violent crackdown by security forces. Witnesses told the rights group at least 30 people were arrested.

March 18 – Security forces kill three protesters in Deraa, residents say, in the most violent response to protests against Syria’s ruling elite. The demonstrators were taking part in a peaceful protest demanding political freedoms and an end to corruption in Syria.

— Smaller protests take place in the central city of Homs and the coastal town of Banias.

March 20 – Crowds set fire to the headquarters of the ruling Baath Party in Deraa, residents say. “No, no to emergency law. We are a people infatuated with freedom!” marchers chant.

March 21 – In Deraa, hundreds of black-uniformed security forces line the streets but do not confront thousands of mourners marching at the funeral of a protester killed in Deraa. March 22 – Hundreds of people march in Deraa and Nawa, two southern Syrian towns, demanding freedom. It is the fifth straight day of demonstrations challenging the government.

March 23 – Syrian forces kill six people in an attack on protesters in the Omari mosque complex in Deraa, and later open fire on hundreds of youths marching in solidarity.

— An official statement says later that President Bashar al-Assad has sacked Deraa regional governor Faisal Kalthoum.

March 24 – Assad orders the formation of a committee to raise living standards and study scrapping the emergency law in place in Syria for the last 48 years, his adviser says.

March 25 – At least 200 people march in Damascus and there are reports of at least 23 dead around the country, including for the first time in Damascus.

— In Deraa, thousands march in funerals for some of the dead, chanting “Freedom.” Witnesses say protesters haul down a statue of Assad’s father, late president Hafez al-Assad, before security forces open fire from buildings.

— Amnesty International says at least 55 people have been killed in Deraa in the last week.

— Hundreds of people chant “freedom” in Hama, where in 1982 thousands of people were killed by Syrian security forces in a crackdown on Islamists.

March 26 – In an attempt to placate protesters, Assad frees 260 prisoners, and 16 more the next day.

— Twelve people are killed in protests in the town of Latakia. Assad deploys the army there the next day.

March 27 – The army beefs up its presence in Deraa, focal point of bloody protests across the country.

— Assad is expected to address the nation shortly, officials say.

March 28 – Armed forces fire into the air to disperse a pro-democracy protest in Deraa as the crowd chanted “We want dignity and freedom” and “No to emergency laws.”

— Amnesty cites unconfirmed reports as saying 37 more people had been killed since March 25 in protests in Damascus, Latakia, Deraa and elsewhere.

March 29 – Government resigns. Assad appoints Naji al-Otari, head of the government that stepped down, as the new caretaker prime minister.

— Thousands of Syrians hold pro-government rallies after two weeks of pro-democracy protests in which at least 60 people have died.

(Writing by David Cutler, London Editorial Reference Unit)

Timeline: Syrian government resigns after protests