Assad's forces kill 22 protesters at rally
Supporters of Bashir al-Assad, the Syrian president, opened fire at protesters yesterday, killing at least 22 people, as tentative government concessions showed no signs of winning over the opposition.
Witnesses said the worst clashes were in the southern city of Deraa after demonstrators marched from three mosques after Friday prayers.
Security forces in plain clothes fired tear gas, then rubber bullets, and finally live ammunition at stone-throwing youths. At least 17 people were reported killed.
There were protests in other towns and cities, provoking violent responses from the authorities. Three people were killed in the town of Harasta, two in Homs, and there was a report that water cannon had been used to put down a demonstration in Hama.
State television showed footage of some of the clashes. The authorities claimed that 19 policemen were killed and that "saboteurs and conspirators opened fire on residents and security forces."
Mr Assad has promised constitutional reform, and hinted at lifting emergency laws in place since 1963. On Thursday, he sought to conciliate the country's Kurdish minority by granting citizenship to a group of 150,000 who had no nationality papers.
He has also sacked hard-line governors, including that of Deraa, which has seen the most lethal suppression of protest.
More than 170 people have died across the country in the past month. Human rights groups say the concessions do not go far enough, particularly since Mr Assad failed to make good on previous suggestions of lifting the emergency law. (© Daily Telegraph, London)