Syria: A Country at a Critical Crossroads

Thousands of Syrians gathered to show their support for President Bashar al-Assad in the capital Damascus on Monday night, a day after
Assad's first interview with Syrian state television.

They carried the President's portrait at the statue of Syria's national hero in the center of the square as they showed their support for the leader they believe is a national hero

In his televised speech President Assad said the unrest sweeping the country had become more militant in recent weeks, but he was confident it could be contained.

Meanwhile, Syrian forces shot dead three people in Homs during a visit by a UN humanitarian team on Monday.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said security forces and loyalist gunmen known as "shabbiha" opened fire after hundreds of people took to the streets of Homs to greet the U.N. team, which has been granted access to assess humanitarian needs after five months of protests.

U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters in New York that "a protest situation developed" in Homs during the team's visit "and the mission was advised to leave for security reasons."

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay accused Syrian security forces of using excessive force, including heavy artillery, to crush peaceful protests.

About 2,200 people have died in the violent crackdown since the uprising began mid-March, according to the UN.

Assad's government has blamed armed groups for the violence and has said more than 500 soldiers and police have been killed since the unrest started in March.

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