More bloodshed, protests reported in Syria

REPORTING FROM BEIRUT -- Footage has emerged purporting to show large demonstrations for and against the embattled regime of President Bashar Assad on Friday, a traditional day of protest on which activists reported at least 27 people killed across Syria.

Opposition activists had urged demonstrators to come out in support of the Free Syrian Army, a group of military defectors and others who have taken up arms against the government.

"The Free Army is the protector of our peaceful revolution," said a banner posted on the Syrian Revolution 2011 Facebook page, which has become a driving force behind the 8-month-old uprising. (Link in Arabic.)

In several videos uploaded to YouTube, protesters were seen holding signs saying "Free Syrian Army protect me" and waving the black, white and green-striped flag of the nation's pre-Baath Party rule.

Security was tight for Friday prayers. The opposition Local Coordination Committees said government forces opened fire on protesters in the mainly Kurdish northeastern region of Hasakeh. Heavy gunfire was heard as security forces clashed with army defectors in a number of other areas, the group said.

A 7-year-old boy was shot in the stomach when security forces "fired randomly" during clashes in the Damascus suburb of Dumair, according to the group.

It said the death toll was highest in the restive central province of Homs, where 15 people were reported killed. 

As night fell, activists said tanks and buses full of security forces and were moving through Deir Ezzor toward a roundabout that was the scene of fierce fighting between the government and insurgents. Heavy weapons fire and machine guns were heard.

Syrian state media, meanwhile, carried photos of what it said were large pro-government rallies in the capital, Damascus, and several other cities. The images showed crowds carrying Syrian flags, balloons, and portraits of Assad.

The pro-government demonstrators took to the streets to protest a threat of sanctions by the Arab League and to "confront the conspiracy targeting Syria," according to the official Syrian Arab News Agency, or SANA.

The agency reported that 10 military personnel, including six pilots, were killed the previous day as they traveled on the Homs-Palmyra road in an incident the military said "confirms" foreign interference in Syria. It did not elaborate.

The General Command of the Army and Armed Forces "considers the beneficiaries of this terrorist act ... enemies of the homeland and the nation, foremost being Israel," SANA said.

Syria restricts access by journalists and human rights activists, and it was not possible to confirm either side's account.

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-- Alexandra Sandels

Video: Amateur footage purporting to show anti-government demonstrators in the embattled neighborhood of Bab Amro in Homs, Syria, on Friday. Credit: YouTube

 
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