1 of 3 | Syrian protesters shout slogans calling for Syria's President Bashar al-Assad to step down during a protest in front of the Syrian embassy in Amman April 17, 2011. The demonstrations come despite promises by Assad to end the widely despised state of emergency rule by next week at the latest, and implement other reforms following more than a month of unprecedented, and growing, demonstrations. UPI | License Photo
DARAA, Syria, April 29 (UPI) -- About 10,000 protesters marched in Damascus during a "day of rage" Friday against the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad, activists said.
The march in the capital was the first one after weeks of demonstrations in the Damascus suburbs and other cities around Syria, The Los Angeles Times reported. Protesters in Damascus, Homs, Banias and Qamishli, saying they were marching in solidarity, demanded an end to the government siege of Daraa, the city that became the center of the protest movement.
Troops moved into flashpoint cities, including Daraa, the protests' epicenter about 60 miles south of Damascus near Jordan -- Homs in the country's center and Baniyas in the northwest, residents said.
In Daraa, there were reports of two people killed Friday, and of troops firing into the air to intimidate residents into staying indoors, the BBC said.
Rami Nakhle, a Syrian activist now in Lebanon, told Voice of America protesters always wanted to oust Assad but did not feel free to say it when the demonstrations started. But he said the "barrier of fear" is coming down.
There were signs of dissent within the regime, including the resignation of 200 rank-and-file members of the Baath Party. There were also reports of two army divisions fighting each other in Daraa.
President Obama signed an executive order Friday freezing any assets in the United States of several high-ranking members of the Assad regime, the Syrian intelligence agency and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.
"The United States strongly condemns the Syrian government's continued use of violence and intimidation against the Syrian people," Obama said.
Syrian security forces have killed 450 to 500 people and made thousands of peremptory arrests, opposition activists said.
Water and power were cut in Daraa, where at least 42 people were reported killed by Syrian troops this week, the activists said.
"The situation is worsening. We have neither doctors nor medical supplies, not even baby milk," Abdallah Abazid told the Ya Libnan Lebanese news Web site.
The European Union is mulling sanctions and the U.N. Human Rights Council called a special session in Geneva Friday to draft a resolution calling on Syria and its supporters to end the violence.
The pro-democracy movement erupted in Daraa six weeks ago after the arrest and torture of a group of teenagers accused of writing political graffiti opposing Assad. It soon spread across the country.
Foreign journalists have been banned from the country with reports coming from information posted on the Internet by activists and telephone interviews.