Syrian forces open fire on funeral march

DAMASCUS, Syria, Feb. 18 (UPI) -- Activists say Syrian troops fired on mourners Saturday in Damascus as a funeral turned into a protest against President Bashar Assad.

The protest had started as a funeral march to mourn the deaths of three youths shot dead Friday. The procession, however, turned into a large demonstration near Assad's palace, with hundreds of anti-government protesters shouting for an end to the Assad regime. Security forces opened fire on demonstrators and used tear gas, killing two and injuring several others, the BBC reported.


The New York Times said the march through the middle-class neighborhood of Mezze marked the biggest demonstration seen in the capital since the uprising began last year.

"If the rallies have reached Damascus and are big enough, we will no longer need an armed revolution," the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights in London said.

The newspaper said some demonstrators carried palm fronds to indicate their peaceful intent.

Violence across the country has intensified as activists were killed Saturday in the cities of Hama and Daraa. Government forces opened fire in the streets of Al Atrab and a law enforcement official was killed, which the government blamed on an "armed terrorist group," CNN reported.


The intensifying climate comes during a visit from Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhai Jun in an effort to "push for a peaceful and proper solution to the Syrian crisis," in Zhai's own words.

China and Russia have stood resolute against attempts by the U.N. Security Council to pass a resolution formally condemning the Assad regime for its response to protestors. Both governments sent envoys to Syria in February to discuss resolutions with officials of the Assad government.

Zhai told reporters Saturday China remains a friend of Syria and is urging a referendum on the draft of a new constitution and parliamentary elections, China's Xinhua news agency reported.

Latest Headlines