Syrian soldiers on August 12 opened fire on tens of thousands of protesters who flooded the streets shouting for the ouster – and even the execution – of President Bashar Assad as his embattled regime tries to crush a 5-month-old uprising despite broad international condemnation. The calls for Assad’s death were a dramatic escalation of the opposition movement’s rage and frustration following a deadly week of military assaults on rebellious cities. At least 11 protesters were killed after Friday prayer demonstrations: Five outside the capital, Damascus, one in the central city of Homs and another in Hama, two in the major northern city Aleppo and one in Deir el-Zour in the east, and one in the northwestern province of Idlib, according to activists. Military raids earlier in the day killed at least two people.
Friday has become the main day for demonstrations in Syria, despite the near-certainty of a government crackdown with bullets and tear gas. The latest rallies were largest in Homs and the outskirts of Hama in central Syria, Deir el-Zour in the east, Idlib province near the Turkish border and Latakia in the north. The protests in Deir el-Zour and outside Hama were significant because government forces took control of both areas during the past week during deadly military assaults. The fact that protesters still turned out was a strong sign of defiance and the latest signal that Assad’s forces cannot terrify them into staying home. Syrian troops opened fire on thousands in Deir el-Zour, according to two main activist groups.