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Syrian Forces Fire on Protesters, At Least 8 Dead


Men throw stones at riot police during clashes in the Mediterranean coastal town of Banias, May 27, 2011.

Men throw stones at riot police during clashes in the Mediterranean coastal town of Banias, May 27, 2011.

Human rights activists say Syrian security forces opened fired on protesters in several locations throughout the country Friday, killing at least eight people.

According to the activists, the casualties include three people in Qatana, a suburb of the capital Damascus, at least three others in the southern town of Dael, one person in the town of Zabadani and one other near the Lebanonese border.

Witnesses in Damascus reported earlier that security forces had surrounded some 1,500 demonstrators.Meanwhile, residents in the central city of Homs said a massive security presence was limiting the protest to a few hundred people.

A Homs resident told the Reuters news agency that they could hear the sound of gunfire at the rally.

In the east, human rights activists said security forces were firing live ammunition at protesters in Deir el-Zour.

Despite the violence, Syrian opposition activists are urging the army to support Friday's protests, which are dubbed "Friday of the guardians of the homeland" in reference to the army.

Human rights groups estimate that some 1,000 people have died in the government crackdown on people protesting against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

World powers are reacting to the violence. A group of European nations have put forth a draft U.N. Security Council resolution that would condemn Syria for its crackdown on peaceful protesters.

The measure - backed by Britain, France, Germany and Portugal - also condemns what the sponsors call a "systematic violation of human rights" that includes killings, arbitrary detentions, disappearances and the torture of peaceful demonstrators.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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