Syrian Opposition Calls for Mass Friday Protests

Posted November 3rd, 2011 at 8:55 pm (UTC-5)
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Syria's opposition is promising mass, nationwide street protests Friday to test whether the government will stop using force against peaceful protesters.

The Local Coordination Committees, a group that helps organize and document demonstrations, called for Friday to be “the day where all streets and squares become platforms for the peaceful struggle [leading to] the downfall of the regime.”

Earlier Thursday, Syrian security forces killed at least 12 people in the restive central city of Homs, one day after the Arab League brokered a plan to halt violence and convene talks between the government and the opposition.

Activists say some of the deaths came after troops attacked the city's Baba Amr district with heavy artillery fire. The accounts could not be independently verified.

Troops made arrests and used force to disperse students demonstrating against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in several regions across the country Thursday, including Daraa, Aleppo, Kafrouma and Damascus.

The deaths and military action cast doubt on a quick implementation of the Arab League plan. The continued violence followed reports of sectarian killings this week that threaten to ignite civil strife between Syria's majority Sunnis and the ruling, minority Alawite sect.

In Cairo Thursday, members of the opposition Syrian National Council met with the Arab League chief to discuss the way forward.

Council member Samir al-Nashar said the group did not discuss possible dialogue with the Syrian government but instead asked that Mr. Assad step down. The SNC then offered to “engage in negotiations” to move from an authoritarian government to a democratic one.

A Syrian opposition leader based in France said he believes Syria will not respect the plan. He said the government only accepted the initiative out of fear of Arab and international isolation.

The United Nations says the number of people killed during the eight-month-old uprising against President Bashar al-Assad has topped 3,000.

The Syrian government has blamed much of the deadly violence on gunmen and “terrorists.”