Free Syrian Army Fighters
A Free Syrian Army fighter uses a shotgun to fire a homemade grenade at Syrian Army soldiers during a fight in the Arabeen neighbourhood of Damascus Jan. 24. Reuters/Goran Tomasevic

Despite the violence swirling all around them, a group of Syrian youths apparently decided to stage a mostly peaceful, but loud, protest against President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus on Thursday, al-Arabiya reported, shouting the slogan “the lying Syrian media” and rallying near the headquarters of the Syrian Arab News Agency.

The protest was reportedly organized by the Union of Syria’s Liberal Students -- Damascus.

The demonstration was unusual not only because of the inherent risks of protesting a brutal regime like Assad's, but also due to its location in central Damascus and the presence of security forces. Indeed, al-Arabiya called it a “surprising and unexpected” move.

A video titled “Mortar” also appeared on YouTube on Wednesday, showing a rally with Syrian flags that was hit with mortars.

The video is unconfirmed as to its origin, but the description, in Arabic, says that it was taken in the “place garden” in Aleppo. The poster is a nonprofit organization called Asharah, who says on its Twitter and Facebook accounts that they are a Syrian human rights and media freedom activist group, founded in February 2010, before the Arab Spring revolution.

Also on Thursday, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta admitted that the Pentagon had “backed proposals to arm the Syrian opposition,” Agence France Presse said.

Under questioning from the Senate armed Services Committee, both Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey said they supported a recommendation, originally floated by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to provide weapons to the Syrian resistance.

The U.S. has provided almost $400 million in humanitarian aid to Syria since the beginning of the conflict in March 2011.