Syrian security forces opened fire Friday on thousands of protesters in the southern city of Daraa, killing at least 13 people and wounding dozens, witnesses said.
Mass protests against autocratic Baath Party rule erupted on Friday in several Kurdish regions in eastern Syria, a Kurdish activist said, a day after President Bashar Assad offered Kurds Syrian nationality.
Protest organizers called for demonstrations against the government of President Bashar al-Assad in several provinces in what they called a “Friday of Steadfastness.”
"The citizenship gesture only helped fuel the street (protests). The Kurdish cause is one for democracy, freedom and cultural identity," Hassan Kamel, a high-level member of the Kurdish Democratic Party, said.
SANA said a police officer and an ambulance driver were killed Friday in Daraa. The report blamed "armed men" for the violence. The government has blamed much of the unrest in recent weeks on armed thugs. It was not clear if the state-run agency and the eyewitness were counting the same people.
One witness said he helped ferry the dead and wounded to the city's hospital, where he counted 13 corpses.
"My clothes are soaked with blood," he said by telephone from Daraa, adding that he was among thousands of people at the protest and he witnessed security forces shooting live ammunition.
An activist in touch with protesters in the northeastern town of Amouda said another demonstration was starting there.
Assad has made a series of concessions to quell the violence, including sacking his Cabinet and firing two governors, but many Syrian activists remain skeptical about the regime's concessions.
"All these decisions are cosmetic, they do not touch the core of the problem," Haitham al-Maleh, a leading opposition figure, told the AP on Thursday.
Al-Maleh, an 80-year-old lawyer and longtime rights activist who spent several years in jail, said the protests that began in Syria will "continue to snowball until real changes are made."
He said Syria must take steps including: lifting the state of emergency, which has been in place since 1963 and gives the regime a free hand to arrest people without charge; allow the formation of political parties; and allow free elections.
AP and Reuters contributed to this report
- Follow Ynetnews on Facebook