Syria unrest: Protesters released in Hama

image captionThis image taken by a resident is said to show recent protests in Hama

Reports from the Syrian city of Hama say 50 protesters arrested during the past few weeks have been released.

Residents told the BBC that government offices in the city have reopened after almost two weeks of closure.

Meanwhile, in the city of Homs, south of Hama, activists report that 30 people were killed on Saturday and Sunday.

It appears the violence followed the discovery of the mutilated bodies of three regime supporters.

This latest violence, activists say, appears to be sectarian in character. The regime supporters were Alawites - the minority ruling sect of President Bashar al-Assad.

The Observatory for Human Rights reports residents of Homs as saying that the discovery of the corpses of the government supporters provoked a furious reaction from a pro-regime militia.

Members of the militia went on a rampage firing indiscriminately in a Sunni Muslim area of the city, residents said.

Hama 'understanding'

The Syrian security forces pulled out of Hama last month in the face of growing protests, and activists have been keeping order in the city.

The BBC Arabic Service has learned that an understanding was reached between the authorities and a local cleric to remove activists' checkpoints and let businesses reopen in return for a halt to raids by security forces and the allowing of protests.

Overnight on Sunday, there was an opposition sit-in calling for the fall of President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

Hama, a city of 800,000, was the scene of a brutal crackdown in 1982 ordered by Hafez al-Assad, the president's late father, which left at least 10,000 dead.

In a separate development on Sunday, the website of the Syrian postal service was hacked by a group calling itself the Union of Free Syrian Hackers.

The group posted messages addressed to President Bashar al-Assad, telling him that the Syrian people will topple him soon and that the noose is waiting for him.

Protests and funerals

At least 28 people were killed in Syria's capital, Damascus, and other cities on Friday, in what some said were the largest protests since the anti-government uprising began in March.

image captionUnverified photo said to show funeral protest in Kaboun

The following day saw tens of thousands of people attend funeral processions for those killed.

Videos posted on the internet apparently show thousands of protesters carrying coffins through the streets of Damascus on Saturday and calling for freedom.

International journalists have been denied access to Syria and the figures cannot be independently verified.

Human rights groups say that about 1,400 civilians and 350 security forces personnel have died in the four months of protest.

The government blames the unrest on "armed criminal gangs" backed by a foreign conspiracy.

In an attempt to defuse the unrest, ministers recently held a two-day "national dialogue" between members of the ruling Baath party and its opponents.

However, many opposition leaders and protest organisers refused to attend.