Syrian forces fired shots at hundreds of protesters who had gathered overnight in Homs city in defiance of warning by the authorities to halt what they called an insurrection, a rights campaigner said today.
A member of the security police addressed the protesters at Clock Square through a loudspeaker asking them to leave, and then the forces opened fire, said the human rights campaigner, who is in contact with protesters in the square.
Two residents of Homs said they also heard the sound of gunfire coming from around the square.
Thousands demanded the overthrow of President Bashar al-Assad yesterday at the funerals of 17 protesters killed in Homs as pro-democracy protests intensified despite a promise to lift emergency law,
Although Assad had earlier defied calls by protesters to repeal the decades-old emergency laws, he has since set up a legal committee to study new laws that could replace the emergency laws that have been in force since 1963.
He has also pledged to implement reforms in an effort to calm down the protesters. But Assad's assurances have so far failed to prevent protesters from strengthening their demonstrations and clinging on to their demands.
Syria has been ruled by Assad's Baath Party since 1963. Though Assad has taken several steps to open up the country's economy in recent years, his administration does not tolerate dissent, according to