BEIRUT - Syrian security forces and students armed with knives stormed a protest march at Aleppo University early on Thursday, activists said, killing four and rounding up 200 demonstrators demanding President Bashar al-Assad step down.
The pre-dawn raid was an unusually bloody incident for normally Syria's fairly peaceful commercial hub and marked one of many breaches of a three-week-old U.N. truce between state forces and rebels.
Nevertheless, the head of an international monitoring mission said the 31 United Nations observers in the country were having a calming effect.
Video posted on the Internet showed students chanting against four decades of Assad family rule but being drowned out by gunfire. Activists posted images of a dead student, his shirt drenched in blood, and what they said was a burning dormitory.
Small solidarity protests broke out in other universities across Syria, videos uploaded by activists showed.
A British-based opposition group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said 28 other students were wounded overnight, three critically.
Knife-wielding youths attacked fellow students marching from their dormitories, the group said, followed by a security force raid on the latest march of a growing student protest movement.
"Freedom forever in spite of you, Assad!" chanted the young demonstrators in a video shot in the morning twilight.
There was no comment from officials and it was not possible to verify the account from the northern city, whose relatively prosperous, business-oriented population has been reluctant to join the 14-month-old revolt against Assad.
Many from Syria's middle classes and religious minorities are wary of the uprising dominated by majority Sunni Muslims against Assad and the elite around him, drawn largely from his Alawite minority.
They fear it could descend into the kind of sectarian and ethnic bloodbath they have watched destroy neighbouring Iraq over recent years.
ANOTHER TRUCE BREACH
From Aleppo, anti-Assad activists uploaded video of a burning residence block, its windows shattered. Dormitory hallways appeared to have been smashed up and men were dragging furniture outside as students screamed.
Other videos showed crowds of students leaving the campus with suitcases and bundles of clothes. Activists say busloads of security forces had taken over the dormitories, which was where students usually launched the protests. Student activists said they had been ordered to move out by Thursday afternoon.
The truce brokered by former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan has led to a small reduction in the daily carnage, mostly in cities were monitors are deployed permanently.
The head of the monitoring mission, Major General Robert Mood from Norway, told reporters during a trip to Hama on Thursday that observers were having a "calming effect" and that state forces appeared willing to cooperate with the truce.