At Least 42 Dead as Syria Protesters Rally against Russia

Forty-two people were killed across Syria on Friday, including security force members, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, as anti-regime protesters took to the streets under the banner of "Russia is killing our children."

At least 20 died in in the central protest hub of Homs, among them two children killed by shelling in the Baba Amr neighborhood, the Observatory said.

For its part, the Local Coordination Committees, the main activist group spurring protests on the ground, said security forces killed 34 people across the country, including five children and two women.

Twelve people were killed in the northern province of Aleppo, 10 in Homs, eight in the Damascus suburb of al-Damir, three in the southern province of Daraa, the cradle of the 11-month uprising, and one in the eastern protest hub of Deir al-Zour, the LCC said.

Security forces deployed heavily outside mosques nationwide, firing on worshippers in some areas to prevent protesters from taking to the streets, activists said.

"Demonstrations broke out in various parts of the country, but they were small in numbers because of the heavy deployment of army and security forces as well as the cold weather," said Observatory chief Rami Abdul Rahman.

"In some areas the number of intelligence agents was so high that they outnumbered worshippers. A lot of people held smaller demos in side streets."

In Homs, tanks stormed a flashpoint district as troops launched a house-to-house sweep to crush regime opponents, Abdul Rahman said.

"The tanks entered the neighborhood of Inshaat overnight," he said.

Inshaat is next to the protest hub of Baba Amr, which has been subjected to a withering assault by regime forces since Saturday that has killed more than 400 people, activists say.

Internet-based activists had urged protests under the banner of "Russia is killing our children."

But Moscow said Syria's opposition "bears full responsibility" for the ongoing violence, while accusing the West of pushing regime opponents into armed conflict.

Russia has insisted that any solution to end the bloodshed must come from within Syria.

Despite mounting calls for military aid to outgunned and outnumbered rebels in Syria, Arab and Western governments have so far resisted such a possibility.

Among initiatives being considered by nations eager to end the bloodshed is a joint Arab League-U.N. mission to Syria, the prospects for which could hinge on a weekend meeting of the Arab bloc, and the backing of major powers.

The opposition Syrian National Council said, meanwhile, that it expects to be recognized by several Arab states within days. So far only post-revolt Libya has recognized the umbrella group as its sole Syrian interlocutor.

Source: Agence France Presse, Naharnet

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