President Bashar al-Assad said the country’s state of emergency, which has been in effect since 1963, would be lifted ‘before the end of the week’, during a speech at the swearing-in ceremony of the new government on 16 April.

The conciliatory move has nonetheless been greeted with scepticism by protesters who say they will continue to push for change.

More than two hundred people have died since the protests first erupted two months ago, human rights groups estimate. But the lifting of the emergency laws is not expected to guarantee a less heavy-handed response, with new security legislation expected to be put in their place.

The country’s emergency laws restrict public gatherings and have allowed the country security forces to detain and torture regime critics with impunity.

On 15 April, thousands of demonstrators from Douma, Erbeen and Harasta tried to enter Damascus through the northern district Jouber, but were beaten back by security forces.