BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syria's President Bashar al-Assad replaced governors on Sunday in two regions that have seen sustained protests against his rule and activists said security forces killed at least two people in Hama province.
The official SANA news agency said Assad issued a decree appointing Hussein Makhlouf as governor of rural Damascus, the region around the capital, and Yasser Shoufi as governor of the northern province of Idlib, bordering Turkey.
Activists say Assad's forces have raided towns and villages in both provinces this month, hunting for activists and army defectors. The raids have led to clashes between the army and suspected deserters.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said two people were killed by the army early on Sunday. Their funeral later in the day turned into an anti-Assad rally, the British-based group added.
In the southern province of Deraa, shops and businesses in several towns were shut for a fifth consecutive day as part of a protest strike. Video footage, purporting to show the town of Dael and the industrial district of the city of Deraa on Sunday, showed rows of empty and shuttered shops.
Syria has barred most foreign media from the country, making it hard to verify reports from activists and authorities.
The United Nations says 3,000 people have been killed in Assad's crackdown on protests, 187 of them children. Syrian authorities blame armed groups for the violence and say 1,100 soldiers and police have been killed since March.
(reporting by Dominic Evans)