Protests rage in Syria despite army offensive

A human-rights group confirmed that helicopters fired on crowds, the first reported use of air power to quell protests in the uprising.

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DAMASCUS // Violence continued across Syria yesterday as the government fired on protesters with tanks and helicopters. On the diplomatic front, key ally Turkey condemned Damascus for the "savagery" of its crackdown.

Human-rights monitors claimed at least 30 demonstrators were fatally shot and dozens more wounded by security forces in protests scattered across the country after Friday prayers.

Tanks shelled the town of Maaret al Numan, close to the flashpoint town of Jisr al Shughour, after thousands of protesters overwhelmed security officers and burnt the courthouse and police station. Government forces inside the town fired into a large crowd and killed at least 11 people, a rights activist said. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed that helicopters also fired on crowds, the first reported use of air power to quell protests in Syria's uprising.

Elsewhere in the country, six people were killed in the port city of Latakia and another two died in the Bosra al Harir area of southern Deraa province, said Abdel Rahman, the head of the rights observatory.

Three civilians were repkilled in the Qabun district of Damascus, where protesters burnt a portrait of the president, Bashar al Assad, according to a video posted online by human-rights activists.