Defying Government guns, thousands of Syrian protesters poured down city streets and a main highway to press demands for the ousting of President Bashar Assad.
Security forces opened fire, killing at least 15 people including two children, activists said.
“Our revolution is strong. Assad has lost legitimacy,” a YouTube video showed protesters chanting yesterday in Zabadani, a suburb of Damascus, the Syrian capital.
Syria’s streets have become the stage for a test of endurance between a three-month-old pro-democracy movement, bloodied but resilient, and an iron-fisted but embattled regime. The latest round of protests and killings came as international pressure mounted on Assad.
“We will not stand by while the Syrian regime uses violent repression to silence its own people,” British Foreign Secretary William Hague said after the European Union expanded sanctions – asset freezes and travel bans – to more members of the Syrian leadership.
The Syrian opposition says 1400 people have been killed as the Government has cracked down on a movement demanding an end to four decades of Assad family rule – a popular uprising renewed each Friday after weekly Muslim prayers.
Five people were killed by security forces’ gunfire on Friday in Barzeh, a Damascus district 5km from the city centre, said the Local Co-ordination Committees, which track the protests.
But Syrian state television offered another version, saying gunmen, otherwise unidentified, had opened fire on security personnel and civilians, killing three civilians and wounding several security force members.
Five other fatalities occurred in al-Kasweh, a suburb of the capital; four in the central city of Homs and one in Hama, also in central Syria, said the committees.
Protests in several other provinces also came under fire but it was not immediately clear whether there were casualties, said spokesman Omar Idilbi.
The group said the deaths included a 12-year-old boy, Rateb al-Orabi, killed when security forces fired on protesters in the Shammas neighbourhood in Homs, and a 13-year old boy in al-Kasweh. The reports could not be independently verified.