White House calls for halt to Syria violence as scores reported killed

Laura Rozen

The White House urged the Syrian government to halt violence against peaceful demonstrators Friday after as many as 70 people were reported killed in live-fire attacks against anti-government protesters Friday.

The Syrian human rights organization Sawasiah told Reuters that 70 people were killed and over 80 injured in the deadliest day of regime violence against pro-democracy protesters in the country. The group estimated that 300 people had been killed since protests against Bashar al-Assad's regime erupted in the country five weeks ago.

"Security forces in Syria fired live ammunition Friday to disperse thousands of demonstrators who took to the streets of Damascus' outskirts and at least 20 other towns and cities after noon prayers, according to protesters, witnesses and accounts posted on social networking sites," the New York Times' Anthony Shadid reported from neighboring Beirut, Lebanon, where many foreign journalists trying to track the Syrian unrest are based because they are unable to get visas to Syria.

Shadid's colleague Robert Mackey of the New York Times' The Lede blog posted this YouTube video, uploaded by Syrian human rights activist Wissam Tarif, of protesters in the Damascus suburb of Zabadani chanting for the toppling of the regime Friday:

White House spokesman Jay Carney said the White House deplores the violence and is monitoring the situation closely.

We "call on the Syrian government to cease and desist from the use of violence against peaceful protestors; call on all sides to cease and desist from the use of violence; and also call on the Syrian government to follow through on its promises and take action towards the kind of concrete reform that they promised," Carney told reporters aboard Air Force One Friday.