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At Least 30 Killed in Syria as Security Forces Fire on Protesters

An image grab taken from a video posted on YouTube shows a police car burning during an anti-regime protest in the central city of Homs, May 20, 2011

At least 30 people were killed in Syria Friday as security forces fired on protesters rallying against President Bashar al-Assad's government.

News reports quote witnesses and activists who say security forces fired live rounds at protesters in the central city of Homs, killing at least 11 people, including a child. At least 12 people were said to have been killed in the northern town of Maaret al-Numan. Other deaths were reported in the port city of Latakia, the Damascus suburb of Daraya and the central town of Hama.

Warning shots were also fired at demonstrators in the Mediterranean port of Banias.

The French News Agency (AFP) quoted the head of a Kurdish rights group as saying some of the protesters held olive branches as they called for more freedom.

The accounts could not be independently verified as Syria has banned foreign journalists from the country.

Syrian rights activists say more than 850 civilians have been killed since mid-March, when protesters began calling for democratic reforms and Assad's ouster. Authorities have arrested at least 7,000 people as part of a government crackdown.

On Wednesday, the United States imposed sanctions on Assad and six of his aides. The U.S. said it was holding them personally accountable for the deadly attacks by the security forces.

In a major speech on the Middle East Thursday, U.S. President Barack Obama called on the Syrian president to lead a transition to democracy or "get out of the way."

Syria's official news agency said Obama's address amounted to incitement. The Syrian government has blamed the unrest on armed gangs and foreign agitators.

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

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