Syrian security forces have opened fire on thousands of protesters killing at least one as soldiers tried to head off demonstrations by occupying mosques and blocking public squares, activists say.
The death in the central city of Homs marks the latest bloodshed during the two-month uprising.
Protesters take to the streets every Friday, only to be met with bullets, tear gas and batons by security forces.
Leading human rights activist Mazen Darwish said today’s victim was shot in the head. A second activist in Homs put the death toll at two.
“At first they opened fire in the air but the people continued their way, and then they shot directly into the crowd,” the second activist said, asking that his name not be used for fear of reprisals.
He said security forces dressed in black and pro-regime gunmen known as “shabiha” were doing the shooting.
Human rights groups say that between 700 and 850 people have been killed since the start of the revolt against President Bashar Assad’s repressive regime.
This Friday, three rallies were held in Damascus – the largest number of protests held at one time in the capital. Security forces fired tear gas and used batons to disperse crowds, activists said.
Assad has come under scathing criticism for the crackdown, with the United States and Europe imposing sanctions.
In several key areas, residents said Syrian soldiers occupied mosques and blocked off major public areas today to prevent people from leaving their homes.
There is a media blackout in Syria, making it impossible to confirm witness accounts independently.
Other protests were around the north-eastern city of Qamishli, where about 5,000 people marched in the streets chanting “Freedom!” and “Freedom to political prisoners!” said rights activist Mustafa Osso.
Thousands also were demonstrating in the nearby towns of Amouda and Derbasiyeh, he said.