REPORTING FROM BEIRUT -- With four days left before the Syrian government and the opposition are supposed to halt hostilities under a new peace plan, opposition activists claim the regime is stepping up its attacks ahead of the deadline. The government, in turn, says rebels have killed more than 6,000 people.
The Local Coordination Committees, a network of dissident activists, said army tanks were firing in the cities of Homs, Rastan and Douma, a suburb of Damascus, and that protesters were being attacked with "massive gunfire" in Hama. It reported that at least 21 people had been killed Friday.
Although the Syrian government has told the United Nations that troops are being withdrawn from some populated areas, opposition activists dispute that, saying tanks are still roaming the streets.
"There are army checkpoints inside the city," said one activist reached in Zabadani, where the government has claimed it is withdrawing troops. "Nothing has been withdrawn; we filmed the tanks in the streets yesterday as [U.N. special envoy] Kofi Annan was speaking. They are inside the city and the army is still widely spread out and they are ready at any point to hit demonstrations."
In Idlib, where the troops are supposed to be pulling out, a resident said government security forces were still in the city. Checkpoints are set up there, she said.
The Syrian government, in turn, says that 6,143 Syrian citizens have been killed by "terrorist groups," its term for opposition fighters. The Syrian Foreign Ministry accused the U.N. human rights commissioner of "bias against Syria" and collecting lies and fabrications without verifying them.
Fridays are the usual day of protest in Syria and thousands of people reportedly poured into the streets across the country to demonstrate against the government after Friday prayers.
An activist reached in the southern town of Dael said thousands of people were chanting the slogan, "One, one, one, the Syrian people are one," despite the destruction and burning of 25 houses by troops earlier in the week.
Here are five glimpses of what's reported to be happening in Syria today, as seen through amateur video. The Syrian government often disputes footage shared by opposition activists, claiming it it staged. Because media access is restricted in Syria, The Times cannot verify the events shown.
The first clip appears to come from a lively protest in the village of Tafs in the southern province of Dara. Young demonstrators stand in rows singing and clapping their hands. The cameraman holds up a sign that says "Steadfast until the fall of the regime":
This video is said to to show a tank aiming and firing its cannon in Douma on Friday:
This video purports to show a protest in Qalaat Mudiq, northwest of Hama, in support of those displaced from the area, allegedly because of recent shelling and a government crackdown. Demonstrators are holding signs saying "SOS" and chanting for the stricken areas of Homs:
This video is said to show Douma under siege on Friday. "Shelling on the city of Douma," says the cameraman as a large explosion is heard and smoke rises from the neighborhood:
This video purports to show a protest in the town of Azaz outside Aleppo. Protesters wave old Syrian flags and shoes in the air and shout "Bye bye, Bashar," in a reference to Syrian President Bashar Assad:
-- Alexandra Sandels in Beirut and Emily Alpert in Los Angeles
Photo: A Free Syrian Army fighter kneels next to a grave during the funeral for four people reportedly killed in a raid by government forces in a neighborhood of Damascus on Thursday. Credit: Associated Press