Protesters Returned To The Streets In Syria

Several anti-government protesters in Syria were killed during Friday's demonstrations, activists say.

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As the Syrian army encircled protest towns in the northwest, demonstrators returned to city streets across Syria today. At least 16 people died, according to activists. And Syria TV reported at least one security officer was killed.

NPR's Deborah Amos reports from Beirut.

DEBORAH AMOS: The most significant protest was also the smallest.

(Soundbite of video)

Unidentified Group: (Chanting)

AMOS: This video posted today shows a march in downtown Aleppo, a commercial capital in the north. Syria's second largest city has not been swept up by the uprising. Today, young marchers chanted: The people are watching. You are not moving - intended to shame Aleppo for failing to come out to the streets.

One protester was killed when security police broke up the rally, which if it follows the pattern across the country, will likely lead to more unrest at the funeral.

In Hama, in the center of the Syria, thousands marched without incident for the second week in a row. One resident reached by phone said the protesters carried a long Syrian flag through the streets. A day earlier, in the Syrian capital, pro-regime supporters unfurled a 2,500-foot flag in a state-backed rally.

In Hama, the answer was a longer flag, says this man, who didn't want his named revealed.

Unidentified Man: (Foreign language spoken)

AMOS: But in the heat of the day, the flag fell to pieces, he says, when residents poured water from balconies to keep the demonstrators comfortable.

In the neighboring town of Homs, security police shot two protesters, say activists and residents there.

After widespread regional and international condemnation, today's protest was a less bloody affair, but the army is still surrounding towns in the northwest, and thousands still come to the street in protests that grow larger each Friday.

The stalemate is costly for both sides.

For the first time, the local coordination committees, the underground leadership of the protest movement, called for a transitional council of civilians and Syrian military officers to find a peaceful way out.

Syria's president, Bashar al-Assad, appears to be looking for another way to end the crisis too. He's scheduled to address the nation next week, expected to offer political concessions. But protests only grew larger a day after a concession that would have been unthinkable just a few months ago.

The president's cousin, Rami Makhlouf, widely seen as a symbol of regime corruption, announced he would quit his business ventures and turn to charity.

But the opposition says Assad and his family are the problem and hold the president responsible for what they say are crimes committed against the Syrian people.

Deborah Amos, NPR News, Beirut.

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