The violence in Syria appears to be feeding upon itself.
One day after the bloodiest day of the uprising against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad (in which at least 90 people were killed security forces), at least five more protesters died when government troops fired on mourners attending funeral processions.
According to media reports, the new killings occurred in the suburbs of the capitol, Damascus, and near the southern village of Ezra.
There was heavy volley of gunfire in our direction as we approached Ezra to join the funerals of martyrs, one witness said, according to media accounts.
Al Jazeera reported that government-backed snipers shot at people from rooftops.
Friday’s crackdown on demonstrations came just after Assad had signed a document lifting 48 years of emergency rule in Syria.
However, protesters are not satisfied by this measure or other concessions and are now calling for the overthrow of the Assad regime, one of the most repressive in the Middle East, and perhaps the world.
In response, Assad and his still-powerful state security apparatus are apparently unwilling to bend any further, warning that no more street protests will be tolerated.
A correspondent for Al Jazeera near Ezra reported: [People marching...] were met with a hail of gunfire, many people certainly wounded directly in front of us, cars turned around, and I can tell you it was an incredibly chaotic scene, and it seems as though pretty much everyone down here in the southern part of the country is now carrying weapons. It is unclear who was firing at whom, that's part of the confusion ... but clearly a very violent incident now being carried out here in the south of the country. I think it's pretty clear now that the government feels that the eyes of the world are elsewhere, and that this is the best way to deal with what they are calling an armed insurrection ... we saw this yesterday, and clearly we're seeing this again today. The government was clearly anticipating funerals like this, and clearly was anticipating that violence could break out at these funerals, people are obviously very angry because they've had family members who have been killed, and I think the government was anticipating violence, but what I witnessed was a clear, brutal use of force on behalf of the security forces.
The state-controlled SANA news service continues to blame the unrest on “foreign infiltrators” and “armed criminal gangs.”
Leaders around the world have condemned the Syrian regime’s use of violent force.
US President Barack Obama said on Friday: This outrageous use of violence to quell protests must come to an end now.”
A spokesman for the French foreign ministry said: “Light should be shed on these crimes and those responsible must be identified, arrested and brought to justice.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has called for an independent investigation into the killings.