40 civilians shot dead in Syria
I know you're probably inured to this kind of headline but the record must be made. We can't ignore it and pretend it's not happening. That would betray the simple human tragedy that is occuring in Syria.
It doesn't matter what they are demonstrating for. Their high hopes for democracy, as elsewhere in the Arab world, will probably not be realized. But we must be witnesses to their courage - and the unspeakable brutality to which they are subjected in chasing those dreams.
Up to 40 people have been killed after Syrian security forces opened fire on protesters following Friday afternoon prayers, according to activists.
Forces acting for President Bashar al-Assad were reported to have chased protesters and conducted house-to-house raids following the end of prayers in the central cities of Hama and Homs, which have seen an emerging armed insurgency.
One activist, Mustafa Osso, told the Associated Press that Syrian forces opened fire on as many as 2,000 people who had gathered to protest. "There was a very fierce reaction to the protests in Homs. There are many injured as well. Hospitals are having a hard time coping with the casualties," he said.
It is believed there were at least 170 separate protests across the country. An 80-year-old man was reportedly shot near Homs and a young boy in the south-western city of Deraa, but there were conflicting reports over the details.
Restrictions on foreign journalists make it difficult to confirm events.
In Balaa - a district to the south-west of the capital Damascus that has also seen an emerging armed insurgency - around 20,000 protesters marched against the regime, according to the London-based opposition group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The organisation said there had also been 40 arrests in the Barzeh neighbourhood of Damascus.
Phone and internet services were disrupted in Homs and parts of the capital.