Fighting rages as thousands protest in SyriaAgence France-Presse . Beirut
Thousands of anti-regime protesters poured onto the streets across Syria on Friday despite a massive security forces presence and as troops pounded rebel towns, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.
Huge demonstrations were staged at Qamishli in the northern Kurdish region, at Deir Ezzor in the east and north-western Idlib province, Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said.
Fighting raged between army deserters and forces loyal to the president Bashar al-Assad, as activists called for massive Friday protests in support of arming the rebellion.
The Britain-based Observatory said there were fierce battles in the villages of Al-Tiba, Al-Qabu and Shniyeh in central Homs province.
The fighting broke out after militias loyal to Assad opened fire on a group of seven women, killing two and wounding four, it said.
Regime forces were also pounding districts of Homs city and the encircled town of Rastan to the north was being bombarded with mortar rounds and raked with heavy machinegun fire.
The Local Coordination Committees (LCC) group, which organises protests on the ground, said security forces fired on demonstrators at Douma north of Damascus, at Hama in central Syria and in Idlib.
The Observatory said one woman was killed in Douma.
Residential areas of Zabadani northwest of Damascus were also shelled, activists said.
At least one soldier was killed in fierce fighting between regular troops and deserters at Dmeir some 40 kilometres north of the capital.
Demonstrations were also reported before the weekly Friday prayers in southern Daraa province, cradle of the anti-Assad revolt, the LCC said.
It also said there were protests in the Damascus districts of Qabun and Jobar, calling for ‘liberty’ and for prisoners to be released.
On its Facebook page, the Syrian Revolution 2011 activist group urged Syrians to take to the streets on Friday in support of arming the rebel fighters, a day after violence killed 77 people across the country — among them 45 civilians.
Activists reported ‘massive’ security deployments at Mudhamiyeh in Damascus province, with snipers on rooftops, as well as on Assi Square in Hama city, a focal point for protest.
They also reported security forces surrounding mosques in the port of Banias and in nearby villages.
Elsewhere, security forces launched search operations in Damascus suburbs after a night of clashes with deserters in which three soldiers were killed, the Observatory said.
Friday’s clashes came after the UN Security Council, including Russia and China, stepped up pressure on Assad’s regime to implement a plan to pull its forces out of urban areas, ahead of an April 10 truce deadline.
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