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Syrian protests grow larger

The Syrian protesters turned out again on Friday, the largest crowds yet, and they were met by security forces.  Al Jazeera reports that between 75 and 100 people died during marches across the country.  Damascus is still tightly controlled by the government:

Al Jazeera’s Rula Amin reported from Damascus, which until now had been relatively calm, that the level of tension in the city on Friday marked a new point in the uprising.

“This day is turning into a very bloody day, probably the bloodiest since the protests started,” she said.

A heavy security presence prevented protests from taking off in Damascus.

“Obviously the government want[s] to make a point, the capital is a redline and they will not allow the protests to reach the capital,” she said.

So what’s next?

Haitham Maleh, who heads the Syrian Human Rights Association, a civil-rights group, told Al Jazeera that the regime’s reforms only went a fraction of the way towards satisfying the protesters’ demands for more freedom, democracy and the legalisation of opposition parties.

“The government will not do anything, I think, and the strikes will get bigger and bigger,” he said.

Western and other Arab countries have mostly muted their criticism of the killings in Syria for fear of destabilising the country, which plays a strategic role in many of the conflicts in the Middle East.

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