AMMAN Syrian security forces shot dead at least six protesters on Friday during large anti-government demonstrations emboldened by growing international pressure on President Bashar al-Assad, activists said.
The shootings occurred near Aleppo, Syria's second city, and in the suburbs of the capital Damascus, they said. Separately, at least 20,000 Kurds marched in the city of Qamishli near Turkey in honor of Mishaal Tammo, a Kurdish leader who was killed earlier this month, activists said.
Tammo's supporters say the authorities were behind that killing, which has fueled outrage on the streets after seven months of political upheaval in Syria.
Describing the demonstration, one witness said: "The first three rows are composed of boys and girls who are carrying pictures of Tammo. The banners denouncing the regime are all black to signify morning."
As the witness spoke to Reuters on the phone, protesters could be heard chanting "The people want the execution of the president" in the background.
Several thousand people also marched in the town of Hirak in the southern Hauran plane, which was the first region to be stormed by tanks and troops at the beginning of the uprising in an effort to put it down.
"There is renewed optimism that the regime's days are numbered. We are seeing more army defections, economic sanctions bite, the West keeping up pressure and more movement from Arab countries," said Mohammad al-Arabi, and activist in Hirak pointing to the defection of a high-ranking intelligence officer last week.
"Russia and China are also not resolute anymore in their backing of Assad," he added.
In the central city of Homs, video footage showed thousands of people rallying in the al-Khalidya neighborhood. Armed resistance to Assad's rule has emerged near the city and sectarian tensions between majority Sunnis and minority Alawites have also surfaced.
"Syria is destined for freedom," the protesters.
(Additional reporting by Suleiman al-Khalidi Editing by Maria Golovnina)