Syria's official news agency says voters are "flocking" to the polls to vote in today's local elections—but with activists calling for a voting boycott, the actual turnout is likely to be small. Some 43,000 candidates are running for more than 17,500 seats, al-Jazeera reports. Meanwhile, clashes between protesters and government forces continue: One reporter saw "tens of tanks mounted with machine guns" open fire yesterday in an attempt to end a general strike planned by the opposition. At least 31 people, including five soldiers, were reported killed.
Government forces also reportedly burned down at least 178 stores to get revenge on those who shut down their shops in observance of the strike, which is "part of our desperate action to get the attention of the international community to look at us," said an activist. The opposition hopes to keep the strike in force until the regime pulls the army out of cities and releases thousands of detainees, and AP reports that it is apparently being widely observed in certain areas, with most shops and schools closed today in the city of Homs and parts of the southern province of Daraa. But the violence continues, with at least five killed in northern Syria today, activists tell Haaretz. (Read more Syria stories.)