Syria’s Friday death toll rises to 35, activists say

Syrian security forces killed at least 35 people on Friday as they pursued a crackdown on pro-democracy protesters after activists called for a no-fly zone to protect civilians and soldiers deserting the army, a rights group said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said all the fatalities, except for one, were in Hama, in the north, and Homs in the center, and that security forces encircled mosques to prevent protesters from demonstrating after the weekly Muslim prayers.

Syrian forces fired live rounds to disperse protesters, killing at least 35, wounding more than 100 and arresting 500 across the country, the Britain-based Observatory said.

"Twelve civilians were killed in various neighborhoods of Hama, 20 others in the city of Homs and one civilian was killed in Qusayr, in the region of Homs," the Observatory said.

Two civilians were also killed and 10 wounded by security forces in Taseel, in the southern province of Daraa, cradle of more than seven months of anti-regime dissent, the group said.

The Observatory's chief Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP in Nicosia that Homs has seen the "highest number of martyrs to date" since the protest movement unfolded. "Homs has given 40 percent of the martyrs of the Syrian revolution," he said.

The violence was the deadliest in nearly six months to occur on a Friday, the day worshippers emerging from weekly prayers at mosques defy the security forces and swarm the streets to rally against the regime.

The previous high was on May 6, when 36 died. The worst was on April 22, when toll reached 72.

-AFP/NOW Lebanon

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