Last Updated: Fri May 25, 2012 22:24 pm (KSA) 19:24 pm (GMT)

Death toll mounts as thousands rally against Assad; army tanks deployed in Aleppo

Anti-regime demonstrators in Hula in the region of central Homs province. (AFP)
Anti-regime demonstrators in Hula in the region of central Homs province. (AFP)

Syrian anti-regime protesters took to the streets of Damascus and other major cities, monitors said, as the Syrian army continued in the violent crackdown on protesters, leaving more deaths.

As many as 50 people have been killed by the fire of Syrian forces in a new massacre in al-Hulla neighborhood in Homs, Al Arabiya reported citing activists at the Syrian Revolution Commission.

Army tanks were deployed on Friday in Syria’s second city Aleppo for the first time since an uprising against the regime erupted 14 months ago, a monitoring group said.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the tanks rumbled through the Kalasse and Bustan al-Kasr neighborhoods of the northern city, where thousands of people attended a funeral.

Protests took place at dawn in five residential neighborhoods of the capital in support of the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA), and in demand for the downfall of President Bashar al-Assad, the Observatory said.

Demonstrations began gathering in other northern protest hubs for rallies after the Muslim weekly Friday prayers, as has been customary since an anti-Assad revolt erupted in March 2011.

Bloody violence continued across the country despite the presence of a U.N. observer mission tasked to watch a non-existent ceasefire.

Meanwhile, Kofi Annan’s spokesman Ahmad Fawzi told Reuters that the international peace mediator will visit Syria “soon,” in what would be Annan’s first visit since he presented his peace plan to Syria’s government in early March.

Fawzi declined to give details or specify the date, citing security reasons. Fawzi has repeatedly said that Annan, whose peace plan has failed to stop the violence in Syria, would travel to the country when the time was right.

A U.N. panel has said that the Syrian regime forces were responsible for most of the abuses and the daily violence in the country. But the armed opposition also bears its share of responsibility for human rights violations, the panel Said.

The outgoing leader of Syria’s largest opposition group Burhan Ghalioun said on Thursday that the deeply-divided opposition had failed its people.

“We were not up to the sacrifices of the Syrian people. We did not answer the needs of the revolution enough and quickly enough,” Ghalioun said.

On Thursday as well, a U.N. panel reported that Assad regime forces were to blame for most abuses in the violence that has raged on daily despite a U.N.-backed ceasefire supposed to take effect April 12.

More than 12,600 people have been killed in Syria since the revolt against Assad’s rule broke out in March last year, including nearly 1,500 since the U.N.-backed truce took effect, according to Observatory figures.

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