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 northwestern Idlib province, observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said.
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 fighting 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.
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.
The United Nations says more than 9,000 people have been killed in the Syrian regime’s crackdown on the year-old uprising that began with massive pro-reform protests on Fridays after the Muslim prayers.
The number of people at the demonstrations has fallen in recent weeks, however, as regime forces have seized major protest centres.