DAMASCUS, Syria, Aug. 26 (UPI) -- Thousands of protesters rallied across Syria to mark the last Friday in Ramadan, as activists said President Bashar Assad's troops killed at least eight people.
Activists allege pro-government forces Thursday killed at least eight people, seven in Hama alone, Sky News reported. Widespread arrests and beatings also were reported across the country.
"The people want the execution of the president!" crowds yelled in Dair Alzour, an opposition stronghold in suburban Damascus, the Los Angeles Times reported.
"There's no going back," a protester told the Times by telephone Friday. "For the Syrian people, there's no going back.''
Separately, activists said a Turkish truck driver reportedly was pulled from his vehicle and killed by pro-Assad gunmen north of Damascus.
In the most audacious incident, cartoonist and Assad critic Ali Ferzat was attacked by a group of armed men who broke the cartoonist's hands, Sky News said.
The U.S. State Department, which has called on Assad to go, said the incident was "a clear message that he should stop drawing."
The beginning of Ramadan Aug. 1 triggered a sweep of brutality across Syria as tanks were dispatched into cities to quell protests. The United Nations ordered an investigation into whether the regime committed crimes against humanity.
The United States, Britain and France are advocating another round of sanctions against Assad, including a freeze of his overseas finances and a travel ban. Even Iran, Assad's last ally, has called for a negotiated end to the violence.
Assad, meanwhile, said Syria was moving steadily ahead in the reform process, state-run news agency SANA reported. He has said he was protecting Syrians from thugs and terrorist groups.
During an Iftar banquet Thursday, Assad also stressed the need to be aware of the "conspiracy" the international community has been trying foment.
SANA quoted Assad as saying foreign governments were pressuring Syria because "Syria has been the problem for the West, which wants concessions from Syria."