Thousands of Syrians Rally After Midday Prayers

Posted July 22nd, 2011 at 10:25 am (UTC-5)
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Tens of thousands of Syrians renewed calls for President Bashar al-Assad's resignation on Friday in rallies across the country.

Witnesses and activists say protesters took to the streets in towns in the northeastern Hasaka province, a mostly Kurdish region. Reuters news agency says Syrian security forces used batons and tear gas to push back demonstrators in at least one town.

Demonstrators are also rallying in some suburbs of the capital, Damascus, where the military deployed security forces earlier in the week.

Protests have also occurred in the flashpoint city of Homs, where the military launched a massive crackdown this week. On Thursday, residents and activists said tanks moved into Homs to block off neighborhoods as government forces conducted raids and made arrests.

There are reports of demonstrations in other cities, including Dara'a and Latakia.

Meanwhile, state-run news reports say supporters of Mr. Assad have unfurled Syrian flags and rallied in several cities.

In a separate development, France condemned Syria for what it called “repression” and the continued arrests and killings of civilians.

The Foreign Ministry issued on a statement on Friday after Syria prohibited French and U.S. envoys from traveling outside of Damacus without permission.

The two ambassadors angered Syrian officials earlier this month when they traveled to Homs to show solidarity with residents.

Last Friday, at least 32 people were killed after Syrian security forces opened fire on tens of thousands of demonstrators during some of the largest protests to date against Mr. Assad's government.

It is difficult to verify accounts of the violence in Syria because its government has barred foreign media from reporting and traveling freely in the country.