Security forces killed one demonstrator in the northwestern town of Idlib, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Protests also flared after Friday prayers in some areas of the capital Damascus, as well as the port city of Latakia, where Arab League monitors had come under attack from a pro-Assad crowd Monday. “The people want the downfall of the regime!” people chanted near a Latakia mosque, one activist said.
Syrians determined to end four decades of Assad family rule have kept up protests since March despite a fierce crackdown by Assad’s military and security forces that the United Nations says has cost more than 5,000 lives. (Photo: Reuters)
Assad, fighting 10 months of pro-democracy protests, greeted thousands of rapturous supporters in a Damascus square, only a day after breaking a six-month public silence.
The crowd shouted “Shabiha forever, for your eyes, Assad,” a reference to loyalist militiamen, mostly members of Assad’s minority Alawite sect, who have gained a fearsome reputation for their part in suppressing protests against the president.
Assad’s wife Asma and their two children joined him for his surprise appearance in the capital’s central Umayyad Square. (Photo: AFP/Getty Images)
Assad, speaking in public for the first time since June, also said he welcomed the idea of expanding the government to include “all political forces” and held out the prospect of a referendum in March on a new constitution for Syria.
His speech was delivered at Damascus University and broadcast on state television.
Since the uprising began, Assad has responded with a mixture of repression and promises of reform and dialogue. Opposition forces say the bloodshed shows the real face of a leader whose family has ruled Syria for more than four decades. (Photo: Reuters)
“If we feel they [the monitors] are still not serious in a few days, or at most within a week, we will take a decision which will surprise the regime and the whole world,” the head of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), Colonel Riad al-Asaad, told Reuters.
Activists said the military pulled its tanks back from one district ahead of the Arab League team’s arrival, only to hide them inside government zones from where they could be redeployed within minutes.
SANA state news agency reported, meanwhile, that saboteurs blew up a gas pipeline in Homs province, where Syria’s regime has for months been trying to crush dissent and mutinous soldiers.
Syrian authorities fired tear gas on some 70,000 demonstrators who tried to march on a large square in Homs on Tuesday, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. (Photo: Video grab/AFP/Getty Images)
The violence came as Syria faces growing international isolation following the Arab League’s decision to suspend its membership in response to Assad’s crackdown on eight months of protests calling for his overthrow.
Hundreds of people have been killed so far this month, making it one of the bloodiest periods of the Syrian protests, inspired by uprisings which have overthrown leaders in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.
Christopher Hitchens: If Saddam still ruled, there would be no Arab Spring The most heartening single image of the past month — eclipsing even the bravery and dignity of the civilian fighters against despotism in Syria and Libya — was the sight of Hoshyar Zebari arriving in Paris to call for strong action against the depraved regime of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. Here was the foreign minister of Iraq, and the new head of the Arab League, helping to tilt the whole axis of local diplomacy against one-man rule. In May, Iraq will act as host to the Arab League summit, and it will be distinctly amusing and highly instructive to see which Arab leaders have the courage, or even the ability, to leave their own capitals and attend. The whole scene is especially gratifying for those of us who remember Zebari as the dedicated exile militant that he was 10 years ago, striving to defend his dispossessed people from the effects of Saddam Hussein’s chemical weapons.