Damascus, Feb 25: At least 53 people were killed today in Syria as President Bashar al-Assad's forces shelled the protest city of Homs for a 21st straight day and tens of thousands rallied nationwide to demand his ouster.
Twenty-two people where killed in the bombardment of Homs, including four each in the districts of Baba Amr and Khaldiyeh, where hundreds have reportedly been killed since regime forces began an artillery attack on February 4, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
“Baba Amr is being brought down on the heads of its inhabitants,” wrote one activist who posted online footage of the bombing. “Oh, Arabs and Muslims, why don't you react?” he asked.
US war reporter Marie Colvin and French photojournalist Remi Ochlik were killed Wednesday in shelling that hit a makeshift media centre in Baba Amr.
Security forces on Friday killed 18 civilians— including seven members of the same family—in the village of Hilfaya in the central province of Hama, Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.
He said they died in “high-calibre gunfire”.
Security forces also killed another civilian in the Homs province town of Qusayr, the Observatory said.
Meanwhile, army defectors clashed with regime forces in the city of Rastan in Homs province and destroyed two personnel carriers as troops tried to storm the rebel-held city, the Observatory said.
Seven regime soldiers were killed in the firefight, it said. Tens of thousands of people poured into the streets across the country, defying tight security and gunfire in some places, after activists called for demonstrations in support of those in Baba Amr.
“We will rise up for you, Baba Amr,” said a call for protests posted on the Syrian Revolution 2011 Facebook page.
“Tens of thousands of Syrians demonstrated today in several areas of Syria,” Abdel Rahman told AFP.
In the northern city of Aleppo, security forces opened fire to disperse a protest in the Sukari neighbourhood, and also at another demonstration in the city of Tal Refat in Aleppo province, the Observatory said.
Three demonstrators were shot dead, it said.
Security forces also deployed at the university of Aleppo, the scene of recent protests.
In the eastern city of Deir Ezzor, a civilian died of wounds after security forces fired on a demonstration at the Hweija roundabout, the Observatory said.
In the southern province of Daraa, where the unrest began more than 11 months ago, security forces opened fire on a demonstration in the town of Adwan, and the military stormed the town of Al-Hara, the Observatory said.
Also in Daraa, snipers killed a civilian in Ankhel village, it said. Protests were also reported elsewhere in the province.
The Local Coordination Committees said that demonstrators emerged from mosques after the weekly Muslim prayers in the north Damascus suburb of Douma, chanting slogans of support for Baba Amr and calling for the overthrow of the regime.
Protesters in the capital's Jubar district also chanted their support for rebels holed up in Baba Amr.
Protests were also staged in the Mediterranean cities of Latakia, Jableh, and Banias, as well as in Hasakeh and Qamishli in the northeast, the LCC reported.
Some 86 people, including 61 civilians, were killed on Thursday across Syria, adding to more than 7,600 people killed since protests erupted against Assad's regime in March 2011.