Tens of thousands of Syrians demonstrated Thursday in support of President Bashar al-Assad, in a show of force on the first anniversary of the Syrian uprising.
As these mass rallies were held in several cities, including Damascus, the regime's forces intensified their deadly offensive on rebel strongholds, including Idleb (northwest) killing 13 people, and dispersing demonstrations against the regime. In total, the opposition believes the violence has killed more than 9,000 people, mostly civilians, since March 15, 2011.
According to the official SANA news agency, "Millions of Syrians poured in (...) to tell the world that the Syrian people chose national unity and stability away from interference and foreign diktat."
In a festive atmosphere, the pro-Syrian regime waved Russian flags to "thank Moscow for its support to Damascus." Many carried portraits of the president on which was written "We love you."
"In a democracy, it is the majority that decides (...)These people represent a vast movement, but they (the anti-regime) are only a handful," commented an analyst on State TV.
Meanwhile, police fired tear gas at a student protest in Aleppo, the second largest city, while in Duma (13 km from Damascus), the police fired on anti-Assad demonstrators.
Anti-regime activists again called for demonstrations to demand the departure of Assad.