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Activists said Syrian security forces and army killed 23 people on Friday, as protesters intensified pressure on the regime to quit , Al-Arabiya television reported on Saturday .

Activists also reported “huge demonstrations” after weekly Muslim prayers in response to calls from an Internet group that urged rallies against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime under the banner “death rather than humiliation”.

This comes after the EU tightened screws on Damascus by slapping it with an oil embargo and after France announced plans to further isolate Assad, saying it would boost contacts with the opposition, echoing calls from Spain for international support for the opponents of the embattled president.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said eight people were killed as security forces intervened to disperse protests in several suburbs of Damascus, including Duma and Erbeen.

Six other people died in rebellious Homs province and three in the eastern city of Deir ez-Zour, said the Britain-based Observatory in an updated report, adding a 16-year-old girl was among those killed.

State television, meanwhile, reported the security forces killed two armed men after coming under attack in Talbisa, a town in central Homs province.

Three members of the security forces were killed by “armed terrorist groups who attacked them in Talbisa, Erbeen and Hammuriyeh,” also a Damascus suburb, according to the SANA state news agency.

It reported four assailants were killed in the confrontations, while an army captain, Wael el-Ali, was kidnapped in a town of Edleb province, in northwestern Syria near Turkey.

Verification of the reports was not possible because foreign media are barred from moving freely around the country.

One of Friday’s rallies was held in support of Mohammed Adnan al-Bakkour, the attorney general of Hama who resigned this week to protest the regime’s deadly repression of dissent. Protesters also urged Russia to stop selling arms to Syria, activists said.

Bakkour said he stepped down in disgust at hundreds of killings and mass burials and thousands of arrests by Assad’s regime – claims dismissed by the regime, which said he quit under duress after being kidnapped.

Protesters also rallied in the northern city of Amouda to demand the “fall of the regime,” while other demonstrators carried signs “urging Russia to stop arms sales to the regime,” said the LCC, which groups activists on the ground.

Demonstrators also rallied in the southern province of Daraa, where the anti-regime protests first erupted in mid-March, and in the northern province of Aleppo, activists said.

Women took to the streets in the Daraa town of Jassem, the LCC said, while the Observatory said security forces blocked worshippers from leaving a mosque to take part in protests in nearby Nawa.

Agencies

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