BEIRUT: Government forces bombed towns and clashed with rebels in several areas of Syria on Friday, as thousands of people took part in “Damascus, here we come” demonstrations, monitors and activists said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the crowds in all the hot spots of anti-regime revolt across the country numbered hundreds of thousands.
In the capital itself, five people were wounded in Kfar Sousa district as security forces opened fire to disperse protesters, said the Britain-based Syrian Observatory.
Mortar fire crashed into the Bab Dreib, Safsafa et Warsheh districts of Homs city, in central Syria, killing five people, it said.
Security forces opened fire at demonstrators in Hama province, also in central Syria, where army deserters killed a soldier, the monitoring group said, without giving an immediate toll for the protesters.
The Observatory said at least three soldiers and a rebel were killed in Aazaz, near the Turkish border.
“Troops are bombing and helicopters flying overhead. Fighting has been going on since midday (Thursday) between regime forces and (army) deserters in Aazaz,” opposition activist Mohammed Halabi in Aleppo province told AFP by telephone.
The city of Aazaz is strategically positioned on the road to safety in neighbouring Turkey for wounded and fleeing civilians as well as being a supply route for Free Syrian Army rebels.
In Maaret al-Numan and other towns of Idlib province, also on the border with Turkey, demonstrators gathered after Muslim weekly prayers in mosques, calling for the trial of regime leaders, said the Observatory.
Large demonstrations were reported in the northern city and region of Aleppo as well as in the Kurdish city of Qamishli on the border with Turkey.
The state news agency SNAA reported that “several terrorists” were killed in the Sermin region of Idlib and in the Aleppo region an army engineer was killed by a bomb under a bridge that was detonated by remote control.
In videos posted online by activists, protests were also seen in the southern province of Daraa, birthplace of the year-long revolt in Syria that monitors say has cost more than 9,100 lives.
Opposition activists said hundreds of people took part in night-time protests in areas of the capital.
“Bomb us instead of Daraa, Homs and Hama,” cities where hundreds of civilians have reportedly been killed in a crackdown on anti-regime protests, the demonstrators chanted in Rukneddin neighbourhood, according to activists.
The reports could not be confirmed because of restrictions on the movements of foreign media.