Anti-Assad protest in Syrian city of Hama 311 (R).
(photo credit: REUTERS)
AMMAN- Syrian forces shot dead at least 20 civilians in attacks on pro-democracy demonstrations across the country on Friday, the Syrian human rights organization Sawasiah said.
Syrians in their thousands took to the streets nationwide for the 17th consecutive Friday to demand an end to Syrian President Bashar Assad's 11-year rule, activists said by telephone, defying an intensifying military crackdown on an uprising for political freedoms.
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"The security forces are continuing violent repression against peaceful demonstrations demanding freedom and the downfall of the regime, firing live ammunition at most protests all over Syria on Friday," Sawasiah said in a statement sent to Reuters.
Sawasiah said it had the names of 20 people killed in the cities of Latakia, Hama, Homs, Deraa, Kiswa, Deir al-Zor and in and around the capital Damascus.Residents
said armed resistance erupted on Friday against Assad's forces in several neighborhoods of Deir al-Zor after the
killing of five protesters, shot dead by Syrian security forces in a new effort to try to crush widening Sunni
Muslim unrest against Assad.
Thousands took to
streets across the country after Friday prayers to demand the downfall
of Assad, witnesses and activists said. Several other
people were injured during the clashes.
"They are firing at demonstrators in alleyways and people are
running for cover. Protesters have been trying to avoid heavy security
in main streets," a resident of Deraa, a technician who gave his name as
Ayman, told Reuters by phone. Security forces also used tear gas to try
to disperse demonstrators in Deraa, witnesses said.
Also on Friday, saboteurs "targeted" an oil pipeline near the central
city of Homs, the official Syrian news agency said, without giving
details of the nature of the attack.
Homs is home to one of Syria's two oil refineries and has seen large
protests demanding the toppling of Assad whose forces
have deployed tanks in the city.
On Sunday Assad replaced the
civilian governor of Deir al-Zor province with a secret police officer,
two days after the biggest pro-democracy demonstrations in the province
so far in the uprising.
Arrests continued across the country in the last two days, rights campaigners said, including hundreds of people in Damascus, where they said Republican Guards deployed in force in the central Maidan district on Friday to prevent protests.