International

Protests Spread Across Syria, Thousands Turn Out

An image grab taken from a video posted on YouTube shows Syrian anti-regime protesters marching during a rally in Hama, north of Damascus, on May 13, 2011. i

An image grab taken from a video posted on YouTube shows Syrian anti-regime protesters marching during a rally in Hama, north of Damascus, on May 13, 2011. -/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption -/AFP/Getty Images
An image grab taken from a video posted on YouTube shows Syrian anti-regime protesters marching during a rally in Hama, north of Damascus, on May 13, 2011.

An image grab taken from a video posted on YouTube shows Syrian anti-regime protesters marching during a rally in Hama, north of Damascus, on May 13, 2011.

-/AFP/Getty Images

Despite a violent government crackdown, thousands of Syrian civilians turned out today in Damascus, the capital, and other towns and cities to protest President Bashar al-Assad, his family and small inner circle. Several media groups are liveblogging events, including al Jazeera, which reports Syrian agents fired into a crowd of protesters in the city of Homs. They're relying on witness reports and videos uploaded by protesters because Syria won't permit journalists into the country.

The UN says as many as 850 Syrians have died in over the past several weeks in attacks on civilians, according to CNN, as Assad tries to stamp out criticism of his rule. Today, Britain summoned the Syrian ambassador to warn his country is facing new sanctions unless the violence stops. The AP says Germany did the same thing Wednesday.

Reuters says this week, Assad reportedly gave specific orders not to shoot demonstrators, and added troops who violated his order would be held responsible. But it's not clear if that's true. NPR's Andy Carvin is following Syrian events on Twitter and received footage today of gunfire. MSNBC cites Syrian human rights activists who say security forces wearing black shot at least one person to death.

The Los Angeles Times says a small protest in the coastal city of Baniyas was crushed, while Bloomberg says the Syrian government continues to arrest hundreds of its citizens, while banning everyone from attending Friday mosque services. Tanks are parked outside many mosques to prevent people from gathering for a demonstration.

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