BEIRUT (AP) - Syrian forces fired tear gas and live ammunition to disperse thousands of protesters calling for President Bashar Assad's ouster Friday, killing two people in the northern city of Aleppo as the regime struggles to vanquish the 15-month-old conflict, opposition groups said.
Crackdowns on protests, as well as other government and rebel attacks, are routine despite the deployment of more than 250 U.N. observers who have fanned out around Syria to monitor a cease-fire brokered by international envoy by Kofi Annan.
Despite the daily violations, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Thursday that there was no "plan B" for the Annan initiative.
Friday's violence during weekly anti-government protests was reported by the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which has a network of activists on the ground, and by the opposition Local Coordination Committees.
The Observatory said one person was killed and another wounded in Aleppo, a major economic hub which has remained largely supportive of Assad throughout the uprising but where anti-regime sentiment has been on the rise in recent weeks.
Aleppo-based activist Mohammad Saeed said one of the protesters later died of his wounds, raising the number of those killed in the city's Boustan al-Qasr district to two.
He said more than 10,000 people were protesting in the city. "The regime is desperately trying to put down the protests in Aleppo but all this violence will backfire," he said.
"Down, down, down. Down with Bashar Assad," the protesters shouted as they marched in the Salaheddine district.
Amateur videos posted online by activists showed several wounded people, including a teenage girl, being carried away by other protesters.
The Observatory said a boy was also killed by snipers fire in the Damascus suburb of Arbeen ahead of a protest there.
In the southern town of Inkhel, several people were wounded when troops opened fire at protesters, while in the central Homs region, seven people were reported wounded as a result of security forces' gunfire.
In the capital Damascus, troops fired tear gas to disperse a large demonstration that started as protesters emerged from the Daqaq Mosque in the restive Midan district in Damascus.
Earlier, government forces shelled the Qusour and Jobar neighborhoods in the city of Homs, but there was no immediate word on casualties.
The U.N. estimated in March that more than 9,000 people have been killed in the revolt against Assad, which began in March 2011 as a largely peaceful protest movement calling for reforms but has since morphed into an insurgency. The death toll rises every day.
The violence in Syria has spilled over into Lebanon, where deadly clashes linked to the conflict next door have killed at least 10 people in the past two weeks.
Lebanese and Syrian officials have said armed gunmen in Syria kidnapped 11 Lebanese Shiite pilgrims on Tuesday, setting off protests in Beirut's Shiite-dominated southern suburbs where residents burned tires and blocked roads.
Lebanese officials said the pilgrims have been located and are expected to be freed soon.
The U.N.'s Ban Ki-moon said Thursday that Annan's peace plan is the only option right now for ending the violence in Syria.
"At this time, we don't have plan B," Ban said in an interview Thursday with CNN's Christiane Amanpour.
The former U.N. secretary-general's plan calls for a complete cessation of violence but Ban said "unfortunately, this has not been implemented."
He said the deployment of U.N. observers to Syria has had "some dampening effect" but the violence hasn't stopped. Ban said this requires "strong political will" by Syrian President Bashar Assad and full cooperation by opposition forces.Ban said he spoke Wednesday to Annan, who said he will be going to Syria soon but no date has been fixed.
U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice tweets:
|@ AmbassadorRice : #Syria regime turned artillery, tanks and helicopters on its own men & women. It unleashed knife-wielding shabiha gangs on its own children.|
Russia says international envoy Kofi Annan will visit Moscow on Monday to discuss the ongoing crisis in Syria. Russia also called for an inquiry into an alleged massacre that took place in the village of Tramseh on Thursday. "We have no doubt that this wrongdoing serves the interests of those powers that are not seeking peace but persistently seek to sow the seeds of interconfessional and civilian conflict on Syrian soil," Russia's foreign ministry said in a statement, according to Reuters. Moscow did not apportion blame for the killings.
Read more on Reuters.com.
The Associated Press obtained a video that purports to show the aftermath of an alleged massacre in the village of Tramseh, near Hama.
How do Syria's fighters get their arms? An overview put together by Reuters explains that there are three gateways to the country -- Lebanon, Turkey, and Iraq.
Syrian rebels are smuggling small arms into Syria through a network of land and sea routes involving cargo ships and trucks moving through Turkey, Lebanon and Iraq, maritime intelligence and Free Syrian Army (FSA) officers say. Western and regional powers deny any suggestion they are involved in gun running. Their interest in the sensitive border region lies rather in screening to ensure powerful weapons such as surface to air missiles do not find their way to Islamist or other militants.
Read the full report here.
This citizen journalism image made from video provided by Shaam News Network SNN, purports to show a man mourning a victim killed by violence that, according to anti-regime activists, was carried out by government forces in Tremseh, Syria about 15 kilometers (nine miles) northwest of the central city of Hama, Thursday, July 12, 2012. (AP Photo/Shaam News Network, SNN)
According to the Hama Revolutionary Council, a Syrian opposition group, more than 220 people have been killed in a new alleged massacre in Taramseh. Earlier reports said more than 100 people were killed. "More than 220 people fell today in Taramseh," the Council said in a statement. "They died from bombardment by tanks and helicopters, artillery shelling and summary executions."
Fadi Sameh, an opposition activist from Taramseh, told Reuters he had left the town before the reported massacre but was in touch with residents. "It appears that Alawite militiamen from surrounding villages descended on Taramseh after its rebel defenders pulled out, and started killing the people. Whole houses have been destroyed and burned from the shelling," Sameh claimed.
Read more on Reuters.com.
Syrian activist Rami Jarrah tweets that Syrian State TV has confirmed deaths in Tremseh. "Terrorists" is often the term used by the Syrian regime for opposition forces.
|@ AlexanderPageSY : Syrian State TV: clashes between security apparatus & terrorists in #Tremseh of #Hama leaves large numbers of terrorists killed #Syria|
|@ Reuters : UPDATE: DEATH TOLL IN SYRIAN FORCES' ATTACK ON VILLAGE IN SYRIA'S HAMA REGION IS MORE THAN 200, MOSTLY CIVILIANS - OPPOSITION ACTIVISTS|