Protests move closer to the centre of Damascus as Bashar al-Assad's concessions fail to quell calls for reform
Katherine Marsh in Damascus
guardian.co.uk, Friday 8 April 2011
"Anti-government demonstrations have spread across Syria with the highest turnout yet in a month of unrest, despite a heavy crackdown by security forces in which at least 20 people died. The most violent clashes took place in the city of Deraa, where the unrest began. At least 17 people are said to have been killed, with witnesses saying ambulances were prevented from reaching the scene. A man who helped carry the dead and wounded to hospital said he had seen security forces shooting live ammunition. "My clothes are soaked with blood," he told the Associated Press, asking to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals. By Friday night the death toll around the country was rising, with activists reporting that more and more citizens were taking to the streets. Demonstrators are calling for President Bashar al-Assad, whose family has ruled Syria for nearly 40 years, to step down. Assad has made a series of concessions to quell the violence, including sacking his cabinet and firing two governors, but protesters say he has not gone far enough. The unrest moved closer to the centre of the capital, Damascus, on Friday, where force was used against demonstrators in the Kafer Souseh and Harasta areas. A witness told the Guardian by phone that 4,000 people had gathered in Harasta, which has not seen demonstrations on previous Fridays. They carried olive branches and chanted "freedom". "It was peaceful until security forces attacked and some shots were fired," said the man, who asked for anonymity. "I saw six people shot, three of them with two bullets each."....."