'At least 62 killed in Syrian pro-democracy protests'

Rights group: Crowds calling for "downfall of the regime" fired upon by gov't forces on "Day of Rage"; 50 Baathists in siege town Rastan resign.

Syrian Day of Rage 311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Syrian Day of Rage 311
(photo credit: REUTERS)
At least 62 civilians were killed in pro-democracy demonstrations in Syria on Friday, including 13 in the town of Rastan north of Homs, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
A resident of Rastan told Reuters by telephone that military security, secret police and gunmen loyal to President Bashar Assad attacked a large crowd of demonstrators in the town calling for the "downfall of the regime" and fired at them, killing 13 people and injuring 45. RELATED:UN seeking urgent access to Syria's Deraa UNHRC to debate creation of investigatory c'tee on Syria Syria: Latest 'Day of Rage' could be largest yet
As protests raged across the country, at least 50 members of the ruling Baath Party in the besieged Syrian town of Rastan resigned, a human rights campaigner in contact with the town said on Friday.
The Baathists' resignation declaration was being read out at a demonstration in the town, 20 km north of the city of Homs, when members of military intelligence and gunmen loyal to President Bashar al-Assad fired at the crowd, killing 13 of them, he added.
A resident of Rastan, which has been surrounded by Syrian troops backed by armour for several days, also said that at least 13 people were killed at the demonstration, at which he said people demanded the "overthrow of the regime."
Earlier on Friday, a medical source said that Syrian forces killed 15 people when they fired on thousands of protesters trying to enter the southern city of Deraa, the heart of a six week uprising against Assad.
The bloodshed occurred as demonstrations again erupted across the country, defying heavy military deployments, mass arrests and a ruthless crackdown on the biggest popular challenge to 48 years of authoritarian Baath Party rule.
The medical source in Tafas, 12 km (8 miles) north-west of Deraa, said the local hospital received 15 bullet-riddled bodies, and 38 wounded villagers after the clash near Deraa.
Assad's violent repression has brought growing condemnation from Western countries which for several years had sought to engage Damascus and loosen its close alliance with Iran and move towards a peace deal with Israel.
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