Security agents in Damascus collected the remains of 10 people killed in a suicide bombing on Friday, as activists reported incidents of Syrian troops firing on protesters.
The UN general secretary Ban Ki-moon said President Bashar al-Assad’s continued crackdown on protests had reached an “intolerable stage”, and that the UN would try to speed up the deployment of up to 300 monitors to Syria. Only 15 are there now. “The government of Syria must live up to its promises to the world,” he said.
Tens of thousands of people marched into streets across Syria in what has now become a weekly anti-regime protest after Friday prayers. Amateur video from Homs, where the presence of UN observers helped halt weeks of artillery attacks, showed rows of men lining up in a main street, holding each other by the shoulders as they sang and danced.
In another protest, people held up 45 squares of cardboard with writing and drawings that – when viewed together from above – showed a picture of Assad and the words “oppression, corruption, despotism, demolition”. When they simultaneously flipped over the squares, it created a new message that read: “Toward a modern society that is more developed and sensible.”
Troops have routinely opened fire on protests since the uprising against the Assad regime began 13 months ago, but there appeared to be fewer violent incidents on Friday than in previous weeks.
However, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said five protesters were killed by fire from the security forces, including a 10-year-old boy.
A plan brokered by special envoy Kofi Annan proposed a 12 April ceasefire, to be followed by talks between the regime and the opposition. Since then, the UN said the regime had broken many of its truce promises, such as withdrawing forces from towns and cities. Rebel fighters have also kept up shooting and bombing attacks on Syrian security forces.
British Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt said the UK government would seek “robust action” in the council if Syria did not comply with Annan’s plan.
The suicide bomber in Damascus detonated an explosives belt on Friday near members of the security forces, killing at least nine people and wounding 26, the state-run news agency Sana reported. The remains of two other people also were found, one believed to be the bomber, according to health minister Nader al-Halqi. The minister said seven police were among the dead.
The blast went off near a mosque in the Midan neighbourhood, an area of opposition sympathisers. The government said it would use an iron fist against those “who might intimidate residents and spread anarchy in the country,” Sana reported.
Video on Syrian TV showed white smoke billowing from under a bridge as people streamed out of a mosque.
Three smaller explosions elsewhere in the capital killed one person.
In recent months, there has been a string of bombings in Damascus and elsewhere. The regime blamed Friday’s attack on unspecified “terrorists” – the term it uses to describe opposition forces that it says are carrying out a foreign conspiracy. Opposition activists deny any role, saying such blasts are carried out by government forces and meant to tarnish Assad’s opponents.