Death toll rises to six in Syria as hundreds of thousands protest


Activists claim six people have been killed as hundreds of thousands took to the streets of Syria for fresh anti-government protests.

Witnesses said three demonstrators were shot dead by Syrian forces in the central city of Homs after protests began following Friday prayers.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claimed another three people died overnight during a military operation to stop the flow of refugees into Turkey.

One of the largest rallies was in Hama, where some 200,000 people were said to be demonstrating in defiance of the security crackdown.

The protests are one of the largest outpourings against the regime of President Bashar al Assad since the uprising started three months ago.

They are being staged in the suburbs of Damascus, near the Lebanese border, in desert regions bordering Iraq and in northern Idlib province.

Thousands of Kurds marching in Amouda in the north-east carried placards demanding: “Bashar, get out of our lives”, according to a video.

In Hama and Kurdish eastern areas, demonstrators carried red cards to symbolise the “sending off” of the president.

Syrian rights groups claim more than 1,400 have been killed since mid-march, most of them unarmed protesters.

The regime disputes the toll, blaming “armed thugs” and foreign conspirators for the unrest that is the biggest challenge the Assad family’s 40-year ruling dynasty has faced.

This latest violence came as Sky News reports from Syria and after our team exclusively filmed pictures of violence in its second city of Aleppo on Thursday.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said she is “disheartened” by the reports of continued violence and warned the regime was “running out of time”.

“They are either going to allow a serious political process that will include peaceful protests to take place throughout Syria and engage in a productive dialogue with members of the opposition and civil society, or they’re going to continue to see increasingly organized resistance,” she said.

Protesters have been demonstrating for 15 weeks against the president’s rule. He has now promised a national dialogue on political reforms.

On Monday, a rare platform was given to the opposition when the regime allowed a conference in Damascus attended by 150 intellectuals.