Tens of thousands of Syrians on Friday took to the streets across the country, defying a security crackdown to reject a national dialogue proposed by President Bashar Assad.
Around 15 in total were killed in different parts of the country after security forces fired live ammunition at anti-government protesters, activists said.
In the central city of Homs, "at least seven people were killed in the Al-Khaldiyeh neighbourhood by security forces who opened fire against demonstrators," Abdel Karim Rihawi, who heads the Syrian League for Human Rights, said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 24 people were injured in Homs and that some people were gravely wounded.
Others were killed in the Damascus suburbs of Dumair and Zabadani, in the Midan area in the centre of the capital, and the coastal city of Banias, Local Coordination Committees of Syria said.
Dozens were wounded, most of them in Damascus, Idlib and Douma, said the group, which has been documenting the protests since they began in mid-March.
More than 1,400 civilians and 348 security personnel have been killed since the protests, calling for Assad's ouster, began in March, according to human rights groups.
Security personnel used force against the anti-government protesters in a bid to disperse them, as thousands took to the streets to voice opposition to the "national dialogue" conference.
"Dialogue cannot take place except within an appropriate atmosphere, because dialogue is not the goal, it's only means for bigger goals," a Homs-based activist, who identified himself as Abdel Hafez, said.
He said talks should discuss the country's transition to a civil democratic state, and ways to implement it.
"There is no turning back before March 15. Those in power must not continue in their positions," he told the German Press Agency dpa by phone.
Assad said last month that a national dialogue would start soon to review the laws on elections, the creation of new political parties other than the ruling Baath party, and consider changes to the constitution.
A meeting scheduled on July 10 seeks "to lay down the dialogue mechanisms and bases ahead of the national dialogue conference," official media said.
Activists said that half million protesters took to the streets in the central city of Hama Friday, and there was no security presence there. The US and French ambassadors were in Hama in support of the protesters.
Although there was no violence in Hama, security moved to disperse protesters by force and tear gas in the southern city of Daraa, Homs and the Damascus suburb of Daraya.
Authorities also imposed a curfew in southern Inkhil, announcing it through loudspeakers in the town, broadcaster Al Arabiya reported.
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