12 killed by security forces at funerals across Syria
Funerals held across the country, following Syria's bloodiest day after weeks of demonstrations in which at least 88 pro-democracy protesters were killed; two Syrian lawmakers, cleric resign to protest the killings.
12 people were shot to death in Syria on Saturday during funerals for scores of pro-democracy protesters killed by security forces the previous day.
The funerals had been expected to attract large crowds and fuel mounting defiance against authoritarian rule.
The independent Syrian human rights organisation Sawasiah said that Saturday's killings occurred in Damascus and surrounding areas and near the southern village of Izra'a.
A group of activists coordinating the demonstrations said that regular forces and gunmen loyal to President Bashar Assad shot dead at least 88 civilians on Friday. But on Saturday, two activists said on Saturday that at least 100 people were killed during Friday's protests.
On Friday, demonstrators were killed in areas stretching from the port city of Latakia to Homs, Hama, Damascus and the southern village of Izra'a, it said.
On Saturday, two Syrian lawmakers announced their resignations from parliament to protest the killing of demonstrators.
Lawmaker Khalil al-Rifaei joined his colleague Naser al-Hariri, both representatives of the troubled city of Deraa, and announced his resignation on al-Jazeera television, saying it was because of the killings of pro-democracy protesters.
"Security solutions do not work," Rifaei said.
Also on Saturday, the government-appointed mufti, or Muslim preacher, of Deraa
"Being assigned to give fatwas (religious edicts), I submit my resignation as a result of the fall of victims and martyrs by police fire," Rezq Abdulrahman Abazeid told al-Jazeera. "When they announce at high levels that (protesters) will not be shot at, we see that the truth on the ground is not like that," he said.
Abazeid is the first Syrian religious leader to resign in connection with the current violent suppression of protest.
Friday was by far the bloodiest day yet in a month of demonstrations demanding political freedoms and an end to corruption in the country of 20 million people.
"The funerals will turn into vehement protests, like past funerals," a Syrian human rights campaigner said.
"When you have security services who are thugs it is difficult to think that they will not shoot at the crowds. Another cycle of funerals and demonstrations is likely to follow," the rights campaigner said from the Syrian capital.
U.S. President Barack Obama condemned Friday's violence and accused Assad of seeking help from Iran.
"This outrageous use of violence to quell protests must come to an end now," Obama said in a statement. "Instead of listening to their own people, President Assad is blaming outsiders while seeking Iranian assistance in repressing Syria's citizens."
France's Foreign Ministry said Paris was "deeply concerned."
"Syrian authorities must give up the use of violence against their citizens. We again call on them to commit without delay to an inclusive political dialogue and to achieve the reforms legitimately demanded by the Syrian people."
Those killed were among tens of thousands of people who have taken to the streets of cities and rural areas across Syria calling for the overthrow of the regime, demands which have hardened over recent weeks.
Activists say lifting of emergency insufficient
Friday's protests went ahead despite Assad's decision this week to lift the country's hated emergency law, in place since his Baath Party seized power 48 years ago.
A statement by the Local Coordination Committees said the end of emergency law was futile without the release of thousands of political prisoners -- most held without trial -- and the dismantling of the security apparatus.
In their first joint statement since the protests erupted last month, the activists said the abolition of the Baath Party's monopoly on power and the establishment of a democratic political system was central to ending repression in Syria.
Aided by his family and a pervasive security apparatus, Assad, 45, has absolute power, having ignored demands to transform the anachronistic autocratic system he inherited when he succeeded his late father, Preident Hafez al-Assad, in 2000.
Friday's violence brings the death toll to about 300, according to rights activists, since the unrest which broke out on March 18 in the southern city of Deraa.
Protests swept the country on Friday, from the Mediterranean city of Banias to the eastern cities of Deir al-Zor and Qamishli. In Damascus, security forces fired teargas to disperse 2,000 protesters in the district of Midan.
Amnesty International said Syrian authorities "have again responded to peaceful calls for change with bullets and batons."
"They must immediately halt their attacks on peaceful protesters and instead allow Syrians to gather freely as international law demands," said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa director.
Syrian television said eight people were killed and 28 wounded, including army personnel, in attacks by armed groups in Izra'a. It said an armed group had attacked a military base in the Damascus suburb of Muadhamiya.