More than 30 dead in Syria as observers avoid rallies
Thousands of Syrians protested Friday against President Bashar al-Assad and challenged the team of international observers already on the ground to monitor a cease-fire established by the plan of international envoy Kofi Annan. Despite the truce, at least 13 civilians were killed in violence Friday according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), while "terrorist" attacks killed 18 members of the regime security forces across the country, according to the official Syrian media.
A video posted on the internet by the opposition showed thousands of protesters in Rastane (center) calling for the downfall of the regime. Many held signs with questions about the effectiveness of the observers, such as, "Where are the observers?", "Homs is soaked in blood, murdered and destroyed", and "Where are the binding resolutions of the Security Council?".
In the northeastern Kurdish area, a huge gathering was held in Qamishli, according to other videos. "Homs, we are with you until death," chanted thousands of protesters. In Duma, a rebellious town 13km from the capital, mass crowds of young people demonstrated, calling for freedom, according to another video. Other rallies were held in the provinces of Damascus, Deraa (south) Idleb (northwest), and Alboukamal.
Across the country, activists reported a massive security deployment, which blocked access to many mosques, a traditional starting point for demonstrations after Friday prayers. Like every Friday since the beginning of the uprising in March 2011, anti-regime activists have launched on their Facebook page a call to march with this week's slogan: "We will be victorious and Assad will be defeated."
International observers had announced they would not attend the events to prevent their presence from being used to promote "an escalation" of violence. "Today we have other tasks, we will encounter civilians and representatives of organizations," Col. Ahmed Himmiche, head of the mission, was quoted as saying. According to the SOHR, government forces killed a militant in the region of Idleb (northwest), two civilians in the Damascus area, and a civilian in Aleppo (north), where another civilian died in an explosion. Five civilians were killed in renewed shelling on Homs. Three other civilians were killed in the nearby town of Qousseir. "The government forces intensified their operations in an attempt to take control of the city of Homs, before the arrival of observers," said Seif al-Arab, an activist in Homs.