Syrian President Bashar Assad’s security forces have shot and killed at least four women protesters and a 12-year-old child in a continuing show of brute force against a persistent opposition movement that refuses to fade away.

A YouTube video distributed by the Associated Press shows hundreds of protesters jubilantly toppling, beating and burning a statue of Assad.

Tanks roared through the streets of Homs and helicopters hovered overheard as the intensity of the protest movement extended beyond the cities of Deraa and Banyas. The 12-year-old was among more than dozen people killed by tank fire on Homs.

Assad’s secret police rounded up hundreds of people in central Damascus, where demonstrators also have taken to the streets.

Human rights groups claim that more than 600 people have been gunned down by Syrian forces and that up to 10,000 have been arrested. Foreign media also report a significant rise in the number of Iranian fighters helping the Syrian forces, which apparently are using the same tactics that the Islamic Republic employed two years ago to subdue protesters.

The official Syrian media continues to report that the police and soldiers are defending citizens against “terrorists,” including those who allegedly have smuggled weapons from Saudi Arabia.

Leading activists have gone underground to escape the feared secret police. "Is there any human rights in Syria today?" Razan Zeitoune, a human rights lawyer in Damascus, said via email Sunday, The Los Angeles Times reported.

She said at least four women and at least six others were killed in a village on Saturday, while another six demonstrators were killed in Banyas.  

The Obama administration, which called for the ouster of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi after their security forces mowed down protesters with rifle and aircraft fire, continues to restrict its comments to calls for freedom in Syria. It has not offered any hint that Assad should step down.  

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