Protesters gather in a square in the southern city of Deraa,Syria April 8, 2011
Protesters gather in a square in the southern city of Deraa,Syria April 8, 2011

Protests heated up across the Middle East and North Africa Friday.  The heaviest casualties were reported in Syria, where at least 36 people were killed, but battles continued in Libya and Iraqi government troops clashed with Iranian exiles.

Anti-government protests broke out in several locations across Syria.  Witnesses said Syrian security forces killed at least 17 people at demonstrations against President Bashar al-Assad and his ruling Baath Party, and Syrian state media reported that 19 police officers died in the southern city of Daraa.

In Yemen's southern city of Taiz, at least two people have been killed in clashes between security forces and anti-government protesters.  Violence erupted as President Ali Abdullah Saleh rejected a plan for him to step down that was proposed by Gulf states.

In Iran, several hundred chanting protesters took to the streets in Tehran to denounce Bahrain's crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators.  In Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, hundreds of people gathered in two eastern towns to voice their support of the protesters in Bahrain, most of whom are Shi'ite Muslims.

Tens of thousands of Egyptian activists gathered in Cairo's Tahrir Square Friday to press their demands, including the prosecution of ousted president Hosni Mubarak.

In Libya, rebels began a new attempt to confront leader Moammar Gadhafi's forces outside a key oil town in the wake of an errant NATO air strike on rebel tanks.

And in Iraq, military forces clashed with rock-throwing crowds at an Iranian refugee camp in Diyala province.  Hospital officials say at least three people were killed. But residents of Camp Ashraf say at least 25 people were killed and 320 wounded.

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

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