Syrian forces on Friday fired on protesters holding the largest opposition marches yet in Aleppo, The Associated Press reported.
Aleppo, Syria’s biggest city, has largely remained supportive of President Bashar Assad throughout the 15-month uprising.
Anti-regime protests in Aleppo have been growing since a raid on dormitories at Aleppo University on May 3 killed four students and forced the temporary closure of the state-run school.
The raid was an unusually violent incident for the northern city, a major economic hub, where business ties and large minority populations have kept most residents on the side of the regime.
According to Aleppo activist Mohammad Saeed, Friday’s was the city's largest demonstration yet, with more than 10,000 people marching in the Salaheddine and al-Shaar districts and nearly as many more elsewhere in the city.
“The number of protesters is increasing every day,” Saeed told AP. He added that several people were wounded when government forces fired tear gas and live ammunition to disperse the rallies.
Meanwhile, AP reported, thousands of people elsewhere in the country also staged anti-government rallies in solidarity with Aleppo. The demonstrations were dedicated to "The Heroes of Aleppo University."
Opposition activists told AP tbat security forces opened fire on protests in several locations, including the Damascus suburbs and the central city of Hama. They also said the regime shelled the central town of Rastan, which rebels have controlled since January.
Amateur videos posted online Friday showed shells whizzing through the air and slamming into residential areas in Rastan, sending up clouds of smoke.
On Friday, the commander of the UN observer team in Syria said that no number of observers would be able to achieve an end to violence.
Norwegian team leader Maj. Gen. Robert Mood told reporters that only dialogue could lead to a cessation of 14-months of violence.
Speaking at a news conference in Damascus, Mood called for an immediate implementation of the UN-brokered ceasefire that was to go into effect in April.
More than 200 observers of Mood's planned 300 strong observer force are currently deployed in various towns and cities around Syria to monitor a theoretical ceasefire.
The cease-fire was to be the first step in a six-point plan brokered by UN envoy Kofi Annan, but violations are reported by both sides every day.
Assad insisted this week that his regime is fighting back against foreign mercenaries who want to overthrow him and not innocent Syrians aspiring for democracy.
“There are foreign mercenaries, some of them still alive,” Assad said in an interview on Russian state news channelRossiya-24. “They are being detained and we are preparing to show them to the world.”
(Arutz Sheva’s North American Desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)