Syrian security forces fired on protesters in the capital and other major cities Friday, killing at least 28 people as tens of thousands gathered for some of the largest anti-government rallies since the uprising began in March, witnesses and activists said.
"All hell broke loose, the firing was intense," an activist in Daraa told The Associated Press, asking that his name not be published for fear of government reprisals.
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The protests stretched from the capital, Damascus, and its suburbs to Hasakeh province in the north and Daraa in the south, to Latakia on the coast. Thousands converged on the flashpoint cities of Homs and Hama in central Syria, among other areas across the nation of 22 million.
President Bashar Assad is trying to crush the rebellion with a deadly government crackdown that activists say has killed some 1,600 people. The government disputes the toll and blames the bloodshed on a foreign conspiracy and gangs.
One of the largest protests took place in Hama, Syria's fourth-largest city and an opposition stronghold. An activist in the city said many people from nearby villages joined the protests.
He added that Hama, which has been out of government control since early June, is suffering from lack of medicine and food due to a siege by troops. He said diseases are spreading because garbage has not been collected over the past two weeks.
The "Higher National Committee" of the Syrian protests warned that security forces, which are deployed around the Hama, might storm the city or other main cities in the upcoming days.
Syrian opposition officials claimed that some one million people arrived at Hama's main square for the largest protest to date since uprisings broke some four months ago.
Lebanese women support Assad
Meanwhile, a Lebanese women's organization, which was slated to take part in last year's flotilla from Lebanon to Gaza, said it was preparing to visit Syria.
However, the group's representatives claimed they are not coming to support the protesters – but rather show solidarity with Assad's regime.
In a press conference, the women's organization stated its visit on Sunday is aimed at "supporting Syria in light of the plot being planned against it.
"Palestine is on the top of our agenda, however recent events prompted us to support Syria in the difficult circumstances it is facing," said the organization's spokesperson.
The Syrian opposition dedicated Friday's protests to the tens of thousands of people detained since the uprising began in mid-March. Activist say about 15,000 are still being held.
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