Syria: 'Scores die' in protests across country
At least 62 people have been killed across Syria as thousands of anti-government demonstrators rallied in several cities, activists say.
Witnesses and human right groups say many died when troops opened fire on protesters in the city of Deraa, where the unrest began in mid-March.
The security forces swamped the streets of the capital Damascus and tear gas was reportedly fired as prayers ended.
Protests shook a number of other cities including Homs, Latakia and Baniyas.
Witnesses said troops opened fire on villagers marching on Deraa, which has been under military blockade since Monday.
At least 33 civilians were killed in the southern city, the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told AFP news agency.
Twenty-seven civilians were killed in and around the northern city of Homs, and two more in the Mediterranean port of Latakia, said the group.
Earlier, a medical source told Reuters news agency that 15 bullet-riddled civilians' bodies had been received at a Deraa hospital.
Syrian state media said meanwhile that four soldiers had been killed and two others captured in a "terrorist" attack on their post in Deraa on Friday. The report cannot be verified.
Activists estimate 500 people have died in the crackdown on dissent against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
In other developments:
- The UN Human Rights Council in Geneva condemned violence by the Syrian authorities, in a US-led resolution by 26 votes to nine with seven abstentions
- US officials said Washington would bring sanctions against the Syrian regime, freezing the assets of three top officials
- European Union member states reached preliminary agreement to impose an arms embargo against Syria, diplomats said
As has become typical during months of protests in a number of Middle East countries, Friday was billed as a "day of rage" in Syria.
Tear gas was fired at protesters in the old Midan area of Damascus, as demonstrations also flared in the city's suburbs.
A BBC reporter in the capital, who cannot be named for security reasons, said a crowd gathered to shout anti-regime slogans after prayers at the city's Great Mosque.
An imam called for calm and the men dispersed. Our correspondent later saw unidentified men wielding wooden sticks in the main square and police stopping vehicles to check passengers' identities.
Demonstrations also erupted in the northern cities of Aleppo, Idlib, Deir Ezzor, Raqqah and Qamishli; the coastal cities of Baniyas and Tartous; the southern city of Suwayda and the western city of Hama.
There are unconfirmed reports of security forces shooting protesters dead in Homs and Latakia.
Hundreds of people in a northern Jordanian town, next to Syria, demonstrated in support of the protesters just over the border in Deraa, Jordanian police said.
'Fleeing over border'
More than 200 Syrians fleeing the security clampdown crossed the border into Turkey on Friday, Turkish media reported.
Ahead of the protests, a notice on the Facebook page Syrian Revolution 2011 called for a "Friday of Anger".
"To the youths of the revolution, tomorrow we will be in all the places, in all the streets," it said.
Protests were backed this week by the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist organisation crushed by President Assad's father in the 1980s and banned ever since.
"Chant with one voice for freedom and dignity," said a statement, thought to be the first direct appeal by the group. "Do not allow the tyrant to enslave you."
In Deraa, dozens of people are reported to have been shot dead in recent days.
Witnesses said water, communications and power had been cut off.
There are unconfirmed reports of divisions within the security forces and of soldiers refusing orders to fire on protesters.
On Wednesday, 200 members of Syria's ruling Baath party resigned after issuing an angry public statement denouncing the repression.
The resignations - mostly from around Deraa - follow those of 30 Baath officials from the city of Baniyas.