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SYRIA: Protesters call for international protection [Updated]

September 9, 2011 | 10:19 am

Thousands of anti-regime demonstrators on Friday crowded the streets of the central Syrian cities of Hama and Homs -- where the government's crackdown on dissent claimed the most lives this week -- to call for the international community to protect civilians.

The video above purportedly shows residents of Qarabis, a neighborhood in Homs, marching through the streets under the afternoon sun Friday.

"Let Bashar fall, and long live free Syria, a Syria for all religious sects," they chant. 

"I think the wave of defections has emboldened the Syrian people. We see these soldiers who are risking their lives for what they believe in. How could be not do the same?" said Majed, 45, an activist in Homs. 

"We've realized there's no going back. After making this realization, there is no fear. There is just action."

According to the prominent opposition network known as the Local Coordination Committees, security forces used  live ammunition against demonstrators in the western Hama neighborhoods of Al-Mashtal. The demonstration in the Bayad neighborhood is ongoing.

Last week, a high-profile lawyer, Adnan Bakkour, resigned from his post as attorney general of Hama, inciting a full-fledged military offensive on the restive city. Hama is a symbol of opposition;  Hafez Assad, father of the incumbent president, sent troops to bulldoze through Hama in 1982, killing at least 15,000 people to crush an Islamist uprising.

In the video above, thousands hurl insults at the Syrian president in unison during Friday protests in Kfarzeeta, a neighborhood of Hama. 

One man raises a note to the camera. "We will not forget you, Homs," it promises.

The United Nations estimates that more than 2,200 people have been killed in the five-month-long security crackdown on protesters calling for the ouster of Assad.

Demonstrators have remained adamant in their demands. Anti-regime protesters in the southern city of Dara, home of the Syrian uprising, are still taking to the streets, even though activists have reported it has been taken over by an overpowering military presence.

In the video above, men, women and children stand in concentric circles around the Syrian flag, holding banners calling for protection from the international community and chanting in solidarity with Homs. 

"We are with you Homs, capital of the Syrian uprising," one banner reads. 

Some anti-Assad activists are counting on the international community to intervene to protect civilians and put an end to the bloody crackdown. 

"We know that as long as countries are standing by Assad, for their own selfish purposes, we will have more trouble succeeding. But we will succeed," said Lina, a student in Damascus. 

On Wednesday, Iranian President Mahmoud Admadinejad, a friend of the Assad regime, voiced his most direct criticism of the Assad rule yet.

"There should be talks" between the Syrian government and its opponents, Ahmadinejad told Portuguese broadcaster Radiotelevisao Portuguesa.

"A military solution is never the right solution," Ahmadinejad said.  

[Updated, 10:58 a.m. Sept. 9: On Friday, Ahmadinejad's website reported that Iran was prepared to host a meeting of Islamic nations in an effort to resolve the Syrian crisis. "The people and the government of Syria are Muslims and the Islamic nations should get involved for a collective understanding to help solve the (Syrian) problem and implementation of reforms" there," Ahmadinejad said.]

-- Roula Hajjar in Beirut
twitter.com/roulahajjar

Videos: Images said to show protesters in Homs on Friday; anti-Assad demonstrators call for Assad's ouster in Hama; residents of Dara pledge solidarity with Homs. Credit: YouTube

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