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West urges restraint as Syria quells protests

West urges restraint as Syria quells protests
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A protester in the Syrian city of Homs tore down a picture of the late president, Hafez al-Assad, the father of the current leader. Such a scene was unthinkable until recently. It seems dissent is becoming increasingly intolerable for the security forces, as anti-government protests spread.

Reports say more than 20 people were killed across the country on Friday, in addition to dozens more earlier in the week.

In the southern city of Deraa, protesters in the main square hauled down a statue of President Assad’s father. Shortly afterwards, reports say plain-clothes security men opened fire with automatic rifles from buildings. It was unclear how many were killed or wounded. Residents in the nearby town of Sanamein said 20 people died at the hands of security forces.

In Deraa, thousands marched in funeral processions for some victims. A lawyer said the barrier of fear had been broken, and this was the first step towards toppling the regime.

Several towns saw demonstrations. In a Damascus suburb, three people were reported killed. Dozens were arrested in the capital when police broke up a demonstration.

Thousands of supporters of President Bashar al-Assad also staged protests, in Damascus and other cities. Clashes were reported between the two sides. Anti-government demonstrators say they do not believe promises of reform.

As tension rises, western leaders and the UN Secretary General have urged Assad to show restraint.