Syrian security forces killed at least 17 protesters Friday as hundreds of thousands flooded the streets nationwide in the largest anti-government demonstrations since the uprising began more than four months ago, witnesses and activists said.Hama has been besieged by Assad's military and basic food and health supplies are dwindling. Assad seems more than willing to let his countrymen starve in order to retain power.
In a significant show of the uprising's strength, thousands of protesters turned out in the capital, Damascus — the seat of the regime's power — which has been relatively quiet so far.
The crowds also took to the streets in areas where the government crackdown has been most intense, a sign that President Bashar Assad's forces cannot smother the increasingly defiant uprising.
"All hell broke loose, the firing was intense," an activist in Daraa told The Associated Press, asking that his name not be published for fear of government reprisals.
The protests stretched from the capital, Damascus, and its suburbs to Hasakeh province in the north and Daraa in the south, to Latakia on the coast. Thousands converged on the flashpoint cities of Homs and Hama in central Syria, among other areas across the nation of 22 million.
Backing Assad, as usual, is Iran. Iran is preparing to provide Assad's regime with much needed money/loans to maintain his regime.
Its troubles have prompted Iran's leadership to consider offering $5.8 billion in financial help, including a three-month loan worth $1.5 billion to be made available immediately, French business daily Les Echos said.Assad's been isolated diplomatically, and is increasingly reliant on Iran for maintaining his grip on power. However, Iran's own economic situation is precarious and bolstered only by the fact that the high cost of oil is maintaining revenues.
It added that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has backed the idea of the aid, which was outlined in a secret report by the Center for Strategic Research, a think tank linked to the Iranian leadership.
It was not possible to verify the report Friday.
Iran, Les Echos said, could also provide 290,000 barrels of oil to Syria each day over the next month while helping to boost border controls to stop Syrians from fleeing the country for Lebanon with cash.