Large protests in Syria as Arab League delays crisis talks
Syrian security forces fired on anti-government protesters who took to the streets in large numbers after Friday prayers, opposition activists said, defying a nine-month crackdown against dissent.
As many as 17 people were reported killed in violence across the country, according to the Local Coordination Committees, a network of activists that organizes protests and disseminates information about the bloodshed. The official Syrian Arab News Agency denied that anyone was killed or injured and said there were also major demonstrations in support of President Bashar Assad.
It was not possible to verify the conflicting accounts because journalists are heavily restricted in Syria.The United Nations says more than 5,000 people have been killed since the start of major protests in March. The government lays blame for the bloodshed on what it describes as armed terrorist gangs, incited and backed from abroad, and says most of the casualties have been security personnel.
The violence has increased in recent months as a growing number of military defectors and other opposition supporters have taken up arms against the security forces. But human rights activists say the protests remain mostly peaceful.
Amateur video on YouTube appeared to show large gatherings of clapping and chanting demonstrators in opposition strongholds in the provinces of Homs, Hama, Dara, Idlib and in suburbs of Damascus, the capital. The theme of the day’s protests was “The Arab League is Killing Us,” a reflection of mounting frustration over the regional group’s handling of the crisis.