Deadly clashes in Syria have killed more than a dozen people after thousands took to the street to mark the anniversary of a 1982 massacre. Russia, however, has rejected the UN's latest bid to resolve the crisis.
At least 20 people were killed in clashes between loyalist troops and rebel fighters across Syria on Friday as Russia dismissed the UN Security Council's latest bid to end the political crisis.
At least one person was killed and three others injured in Hama's central neighborhood of Junub al-Malaab as security forces opened fire on thousands of protesters who had taken to the street to commemorate the anniversary of a massacre in the city in 1982.
Residents had planned to release 1,000 red balloons to mark killing of between 10,000 and 40,000 civilians under the regime of President Bashar al-Assad's father, Hafez al-Assad, thirty years ago. Under the motto "Hama, forgive us," activist group Local Coordination Committees (LCC) had called for the protests to take place after the week's main prayers on Friday.
A number of rallies also took place in the capital Damascus where several activists were killed after security forces opened fire on demonstrators.
Meanwhile the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that nine soldiers were killed in clashes with the rebel Free Syrian Army in the southern province of Daraa and two children died in an explosion in the northwestern region of Idlib.
According to United Nations estimates, some 5,400 people have been killed since pro-democracy protests against Assad's regime erupted in March.
Russia rejects resolution
With the situation in Syria worsening, Western and Arab countries have been scrambling to reach an agreement on a draft UN resolution to push the Syrian regime to end its brutal crackdown on dissent.
Russia's deputy foreign minister said Friday, however, that Moscow could not support the latest text, despite a number of concessions made by Western and Arab council members.
"Some of our concerns and the concerns of those who think the same as us have been taken into consideration but all the same this is not enough for us to be able to support it in this form," Interfax news agency quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov as saying.
Although the draft does not explicitly call on President Assad to step down, or mention an arms embargo or sanctions, it says the Security Council "fully supports" an Arab League plan to facilitate a democratic transition.
Gatilov did not specify whether Russia would veto the latest resolution.
ccp/sb (AFP, dpa, Reuters, AP)