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Syrian Forces Crack Down on Thousands of Protesters

A handout picture released by the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) shows hundreds of Syrians waving their national flag during a rally, July 28, 2011

Syrian security forces have used live ammunition and tear gas on anti-government demonstrators who gathered for rallies across the country on Friday.

Witnesses and activists say forces have fired shots to disperse protesters in the southern city of Daraa.

Also, the Associated Press quotes activists who say troops opened fire on demonstrators in the town of Latakia, killing at least one person.

Thousands of Syrians took to the streets after midday prayers on Friday to press their demands for the resignation of President Bashar al-Assad.

The government has stepped up its deadly crackdown on dissent in recent days.

On Thursday, activists said security forces shot and killed at least two civilians in the eastern province of Deir el-Zour.

Rights groups say Syrian forces have killed at least 1,600 civilians during the past four months.

Separately Friday, Syrian state media said "saboteurs" bombed an oil pipeline in the country near the central city of Homs.

The reports say the explosion left a huge crater at the site and caused an oil leak.

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

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