At least 11 people were killed in Syria Friday when security forces opened fire on anti-government protesters in several cities.
News agencies say witnesses reported deaths in areas including a suburb of Damascus, Douma, and the southern Daraa region, a hotbed for recent protests.
Thousands of protesters across the country took to the streets after Friday prayers, and security forces responded by firing tear gas and live ammunition.
The rallies against President Bashar al-Assad’s government came one day after the president signed a decree ending almost 50 years of emergency rule. The decree was part of his effort to end anti-government unrest.
Witnesses say protesters at some rallies chanted “freedom” as they called for an end to Mr. Assad’s rule.
A Facebook page calling for people to join the rallies called them the “Good Friday” protests – a reference to the holy day when Christians believe Christ was crucified and died in Jerusalem. A website image shows Christian and Muslim images together with the words “one heart, one hand, one goal.”
Amnesty International said Friday’s demonstrations could be the largest yet in Syria. The group says a government crackdown on protests has killed at least 228 people since last month.