AMMAN - Syrian forces shot dead 20 people on Friday and flooded rural areas around Damascus with troops to trying to end six months of demonstrations against President Bashar Assad, activists said.
Despite the heavy deployment, activists reported protests on the edges of the capital, the northern province of Idlib bordering Turkey and other parts of Syria. Banners proclaimed protesters were "on course to bring down the regime."
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After storming several cities in August to crush protest centers, the Syrian army has swept through rural districts in recent weeks, hunting down activists and army defectors, carrying out widespread arrests and killing dozens of people.
State television broadcast an interview on Thursday night with one of
the most prominent military deserters, appearing to recant claims made
when he defected and saying he had never been ordered to fire on
It was not clear how Lieutenant-Colonel Hussein Harmoush, who announced
his desertion in June, ended up back in Damascus. Turkey's foreign
ministry denied reports it had handed him over to Syrian authorities,
saying it would be out of the question to return anyone against their
The operations in the north have led to renewed refugee flows into
Turkey, Turkish officials say, and on Thursday night Syrian forces
crossed 200 meters (yards) into Lebanese territory in pursuit of
fugitives, according to the Lebanese army. Lebanese sources said a
Lebanese man was wounded in gunfire.
Activists said most of Friday's killings occurred in the countryside
around the city of Hama and in Jabal al-Zawiya, a rugged region near
Turkey, both scenes of military operations in the last week.
Protesters were also killed on the edge of Damascus, including a
12-year-old boy, and in Homs, 165 km (100 miles) to the north, the
The Local Coordination Committee, a grassroots activist group, said 27
people died on Friday, though that figure included a handful who died
from wounds suffered earlier.
The United Nations says 2,600 people have been killed since Syrians rose
up against Assad six months ago, inspired by revolts in North Africa
which overthrew leaders of Egypt and Tunisia and have now also ousted
Libya's Muammar Gaddafi.
The global activist organization Avaaz said on Friday it had verified
the names of 3,004 Syrians killed since the violence erupted in
"The Syrian military have either shot men, women and children at
peaceful protests or tortured, mutilated and assassinated them in
detention," it said. The list included 278 army conscripts, though Avaaz
did not say how they died.
Syrian authorities say 700 soldiers and police have been killed. They
blame the violence on armed groups, and say another 700 civilians have