Friday prayers lead to fresh bloodshed in Syria

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Friday prayers lead to fresh bloodshed in Syria

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At least 15 people, including one child, are feared dead in Syria after security forces opened fire on pro-democracy demonstrators, according to human rights groups.

Muslim Friday prayers again provided the rallying point for protests across the country.

The latest reports said tanks had stormed Maaret al-Numan, 60 kilometres south of the country’s second biggest city Aleppo, which had been relatively quiet.

Witnesses said crowds gathered in several towns and cities from Aleppo to Deraa, including the capital Damascas. Gunfire was heard in Banias and a rally of 20,000 came under teargas fire in Hama.

Foreign media is banned from Syria so the figures and the images cannot be verified. But at the border with Lebanon, Syrian refugees recount their experiences.

They speak of death and destruction, and political frustration.

“I don’t think they’ll carry out reforms. Every month we hear promises of reforms, but they only carry out minor ones to try to keep the people quiet. The Syrian people want freedom,” said one refugee.

President Bashar al-Assad has made some changes. But the continuing violence of the efforts to quell the unrest have earned him international condemnation and, this week, new US sanctions.