Syrian troops continue to shoot and kill mourners and refugees flee to Lebanon as the protest movement warns of a “volcano” this week. Various sources reported that up to 18 civilians, including two mourners, were gunned down Friday by soldiers and secret police loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Hundreds of Syrians have fled to Lebanon, in addition to the more than 12,000 who have crossed the border into Turkey, activists told the Beirut Daily Star.

Assad’s government-controlled media have escalated their propaganda campaign that admits more than 1,000 deaths but claims that these were soldiers who fell victim to ”armed gangs" allegedly trying to spread sedition.

SANA, the official government news agency, reported more “eyewitness” accounts of the supposed activity by gangs, but it has not provided any photographic evidence to contradict videos of army brutality smuggled out of the country by opposition sources.

Despite growing international condemnations of Assad, the United States continues to retain its newly-appointed ambassador Robert Ford in Damascus. He told the Arabic language Al-Arabiya newspaper last week that the United States supports "dialogue between the Syrian government and the opposition inside [Syria], in order to formulate a political framework that paves the way to ending the crisis in the country.”

Ford’s house in Damascus reportedly was under siege by pro-government demonstrators, but U.S. State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland told reporters Friday the reports were “overblown.”

“As we understand what happened from our Embassy in Damascus, you had some pro-Assad demonstrators who were walking back from one of their rallies, passed the house, they were engaged in some noise and some vandalism that was quickly put down by Syrian security forces. As you know, it is the responsibility of the hosting government to ensure security of diplomatic property. I think we’re relatively satisfied that that happened in this case,” she said.

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