A protest by students in Damascus Syria has turned into a melee after security forces beat some of the demonstrators up and arrested several others, according to the Associated Press.

Hundreds of students had gathered outside the university to mourn protesters who have died after three weeks of anti-government protests and to express solidarity with their pro-democracy agenda.

Ammar Qurabi, head of Syria's National Organization for Human Rights, informed AP that one student died after he was shot in the Damascus protest.

One witness told AP that most of the student demonstrators were either from Deraa or Baniyas, towns that have seen significant anti-government unrest and violence.

Meanwhile, the Syrian army has been deployed in the city of Baniyas on the northwestern coast after four protesters were killed their over the weekend.

A witness in Baniyas told Al Jazeera said that armed gangs were shooting at army and residents at the same time. Residents alleged the gunmen were loyalists of the regime. A statement was issued on behalf of the people of the city, the veracity of which has yet to be confirmed, desperately asking for help, from the army and from human rights groups, from anyone.

There are also unconfirmed reports that nine soldiers were killed in Baniyas over the weekend, not by protesters, but rather by state security forces after the soldiers refused to fire gunshots at demonstrators.

On Monday, about 2,000 protesters in Baniyas chanted death is better than humiliation!'' during a funeral for the four protesters.

The army has sealed off Baniyas, cutting off much of its electricity and internet connections.

Separately, the UK foreign minister William Hague, declared that meaningful reform is the only legitimate response to the demands from demonstrators.

 We call upon the Syrian government to respect the right for free speech and peaceful protest, Hague said at a news conference in London.

The Syrian government has taken a defensive approach, promising comprehensive political reforms, while blaming the unrest on foreigners and saboteurs.

Thus far, Syria has made only a few token reforms, like granting citizenship to thousands of stateless Kurds and lifting the ban on veils.

Last Friday, The Syrian Ministry of Interior said: “The Syrian authorities, in order to preserve the security of the country, citizens and the governmental and services establishments, will confront these people and those behind them according to the law, which specifies the conditions for using weapons. The Ministry of Interior affirms that there is no more room for leniency or tolerance in enforcing law, preserving security of country and citizens and protecting general order under the pretext of demonstration, which we still consider a healthy state. However, we will not allow for deliberately confusing peaceful demonstration with vandalism, sowing discord, undermining the strong national unity, and attacking the basis of Syrian policy which is based on defending national standards and the people's interests.

An analyst told Al Jazeera that he summed up the situation this way:

When the Syrians say they are going to reform and they are going to open up things and this is the time, you have to question the intent and the timing. This is a regime that has been in power for decades ... we really have to wonder whether they are just looking to dissipate the protests and the momentum of these protests.