On July 29, more than 20 civilians were shot dead by Syrian forces during anti-government demonstrations across the country, the Syrian human rights organization Sawasiah said. Nationwide, thousands of Syrian citizens turned out to demand an end to President Bashar Al-Assad's 11-year rule, for the 17th consecutive Friday of protests.
Since the demonstrations began, the military crackdown on protesters has intensified, leading to the killing of 20 civilians in the cities of Latakia, Hama, Homs, Deraa, Kiswa, Deir Al-Zor, and the capital, Damascus.
According to human rights campaigners, arrests have continued across the country in the last two days, including hundreds of people in Damascus, where Republican Guards were deployed in the central Maidan district.
The official Syrian News agency has claimed that a member of the police was killed in the town of Albu Kamal, on the border with Iraq, and that militant protestors bombed an oil pipeline near the central city of Homs on Friday, causing an oil leak. Homs, where the army has used tanks to combat demonstrations, is the site of Syria's two oil refineries and has experienced the most regular and highly saturated street protests.
Amateur video footage, taken from a social media website, shows protesters holding a funeral for a man, allegedly killed by authorities, in the village of Mosayfra, near Deraa. Since the uprising began, Syrian authorities have expelled most independent journalists and refused to comment on killings, making it difficult to verify the reports of police violence.
Inspired by the "Arab Spring" uprisings that successfully toppled long-time leaders in Tunisia and Egypt, mass protests broke out in Syria in March against four decades of repressive rule by the Assad family. The unrest has now developed a sectarian agenda, with protesters from the Sunni Muslim majority pitted against minority Alawites, who dominate the powerful elite.