Security forces have fired teargas to disperse tens of thousands of protesters in Damascus, in one of the biggest rallies against the regime Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad since unrest erupted one month ago.
The demonstrators were reportedly marching into the city from the suburb of Douma.
Some media reports claim that state soldiers also beat demonstrators with batons.
One witness in Damascus told Reuters: I counted fifteen [secret police] busloads. They went into the alleyways just north of the square chasing protesters and yelling 'you pimps, you infiltrators, you want freedom? we will give it to you’.”
Demonstrations are also taking place across the country, including the cities of Deraa, Latakia, Homs, Qamishli, Badiya and Baniyas.
Protests have continued unabated, as demonstrators are clearly dissatisfied with the slow pace of reform and cosmetic changes instituted by Assad, including the formation of a new cabinet, the granting of citizenship to thousands of Kurds, and the release of non-criminal prisoners, among other measures.
At least 200 have been killed during the unrest, and untold hundreds more have been detained by the authorities.
The massive turnout in the capital Damascus may signal an escalation in the protest movement since the city has largely avoided much unrest until now.
The Associated Press reported that demonstrators in Damascus held up yellow cards, similar to a soccer-style warning to Assad.
This is our first warning, next time we will come with the red cards, one protester said.
Other reports stated that protesters tore down posters of Assad, while others openly called for the overthrow of his Baathist regime.
An Al Jazeera correspondent in Deraa reported: It's a completely different scene from last Friday when more than 26 people were killed during protests and clashes with the security forces and protesters here. Today, no security forces are visible at all. People went out after Friday prayers ... in thousands. They were marching carrying olive branches saying 'peaceful, freedom'. Some were demanding the toppling of the regime, others were saying they just want reforms.”
The reporter added: It comes one day after a delegation from Deraa met with President Assad in an attempt by the government to calm the situation. Now here in Deraa, these measures seem to have calmed the situation a little bit. People say the president promised them very specific reforms that will be announced very soon, maybe as early as next week.
Assad had reportedly spoken to the Deraa delegation about his promise to life the state of emergency that Syria has been under since his father, Hafez, seized power in the country in 1963.
Al Jazeera reported: according to the delegation that met with the president, he told them that [the emergency law] will be lifted. They said it is going to be lifted by April 25, the deadline that the government had announced, and they are happy with that. They feel this is one of the major issues and the source of many of the problems. They are tired and have had enough of the security forces having a free hand in arresting people, putting them in prison without trial for years, she reported.