Thousands of anti-regime protesters called on Friday for foreign military intervention to bring down a Syrian government whose brutal crackdown on dissent monitors say has cost more than 9,100 lives.
The protests after Muslim weekly prayers were called by activists on their Facebook page, Syrian Revolution 2011, to demand "immediate military intervention by the Arabs and Muslims, followed by the rest of the world."
"The people want military intervention, the Free Syrian Army to be armed, and the fall of the regime," several thousand demonstrators chanted in Aleppo in northern Syria, an activist at the scene told Agence France Presse in Beirut by telephone.
Heavy gunfire was heard in a video posted on the Internet, in which the activist filming the protest announced the date.
Thousands of others rallied in the flashpoint provinces of Homs and across Daraa in the south as well as several districts of Damascus and the region, said Rami Abdel Rahman of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
A large crowd also took part in a rare demonstration in al-Raqqa, a city in northeast Syria, in another video on the Internet.
"Here is al-Raqqa announcing its liberation," the activist filming the video said, before the sound of gunshots was heard, sending the demonstrators into flight.
But numbers fell elsewhere for the traditional anti-regime demonstrations held on Fridays, the Muslim day of rest, as security forces have seized major protest centers in Homs and Idlib since the start of March.
On the day after the first anniversary of the outbreak of the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad, the Observatory monitoring group said at least 15 people were killed in violence across Syria on Friday.
Huge rallies in support of Assad were held in Damascus and other major cities on Thursday to mark the anniversary.
With the opposition divided, Western countries have been opposed to military intervention although Qatar and Saudi Arabia, Assad's fiercest critics in the Arab world, have come out in favor of arming the rebels.
Homs-based activist Hadi Abdullah of the General Commission of the Syrian Revolution told AFP that hundreds of families have been displaced from the Khaldiyeh district of the city in central Syria.
They have fled in the face of insecurity and looting by Shabiha pro-regime militia, said Abdel Rahman.
The United Nations estimates more than 30,000 Syrians have escaped to neighboring states and another 200,000 have been displaced within the country by the violence.
Some 12,000 people are in need of assistance after fleeing fighting in the restive province of Homs, especially from the towns of Rastan and Talbisseh, the International Committee of the Red Cross said on Friday.
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