| 09.07,11. 05:29 AM |
13 Dead, 40 Hurt in Syria: Half a Million Flood Hama amid Demos in Central Damascus
At least 13 Syrian protesters were killed and 40 others wounded on Friday across the country as nearly half a million people demonstrated in the protest hub of Hama, activists said.
Rami Abdul Rahman, chief of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said that at least 450,000 Syrians rallied after Friday prayers in Hama under the banner "No to dialogue" with President Bashar al-Assad's regime.
The Hama demonstrators reiterated their "refusal to dialogue with the regime and called for its fall," he said.
Opposition activists speaking to Agence France Presse separately by telephone reported five deaths in the city of Homs, two in the capital's commercial neighborhood Midan and six in the area of al-Damir, east of Damascus.
Both the American and French ambassadors to Syria visited Hama on Thursday, and the regime on Friday accused U.S. envoy Robert Ford of meeting "saboteurs" in Hama and inciting anti-Assad protests.
"The US ambassador met with saboteurs in Hama ... who erected checkpoints, cut traffic and prevented citizens from going to work," the interior ministry said in a statement.
"The ambassador incited these saboteurs to violence, to demonstrate and to refuse dialogue," with the government, it added.
In Paris, foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said France's envoy went to Hama "to show France's engagement with the victims, the civilian population."
The Syrian Observatory said at least 24 people were injured on Friday in the central city of Homs when security forces fired on demonstrators to disperse them, saying that "some people were gravely wounded."
Elsewhere, security forces used live rounds against protesters in the coastal city of Banias.
"Protesters left the mosques in the southern districts of the city and dozens were arrested," Abdul Rahman said.
Further north on the coast, in Latakia, more than 1,000 protesters were dispersed as they left Al-Rahman mosque, an activist there told AFP.
"Armed security services came in more than 20 cars, dispersed the protesters and arrested some of them," the activist said.
In Aleppo, a regime stronghold, "thousands of people rallied at Seif al-Dawla and Salaheddine. They were attacked by security forces and a pro-regime militia," a witness told AFP.
Protests also took place in Saqba and Jdeidet Artuz, while 7,000 protesters filed through Qatana north of Damascus, activists said.
In the northern town of Raqqa, "security forces fired live rounds and tear gas to disperse protesters, at least one of whom was hurt," said an activist who requested anonymity.
Thousands also marched in Syria's Kurdish regions.
Between 4,000-5,000 took to the streets of Qamlishi, as did thousands more in Amuda, expressing solidarity with Hama and calling for the fall of the regime, rights activist Radif Mustafa said.
Before Friday's protests, the Facebook group Syrian Revolution 2011 had urged "No to dialogue: What dialogue (is possible) when blood has been spilled, while the towns are besieged? The people want the fall of the regime."
It added: "No to dialogue with the assassins, the still-warm blood of the martyrs is calling us. We are legitimacy ... dialogue with the regime is useless."
Residents of Hama and Homs staged a general strike ahead of Friday's protests, according to Abdul Rahman, while Syrian Revolution 2011 called for the boycotting of businesses that trade with Assad's regime.
"Don't pay for the bullets that are being used to kill us", the group urged its online followers, also calling on activists to march on the Turkish border on July 16 in support of "the refugees, exiles and victims" of the unrest.
Rights groups say that more than 1,300 civilians have been killed and 10,000 people arrested by security forces since mid-March when the anti-government protests erupted.