Reports: At Least 19 Killed In Syria Unrest

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Syrian rights activists say at least 19 people were killed when security forces and unidentified snipers opened fire on protesters in Syrian towns and cities.

Thirteen of the casualties were reported in the village of Al-Harra, near the protest center of Daraa, south of the capital, Damascus.

Tank fire reportedly killed five people on the outskirts of the central city of Homs. Another civilian was reported killed in Jassem, near Daraa.

Tank activity and heavy machine-gun fire was reported from Homs, Syria's third-largest city, and one of the hubs of Syria's eight-week-old antiregime protests.

Thousands of Syrians inspired by popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt began protesting against the authoritarian regime of President Bashar al-Assad in mid-March.

Rights activists believe more than 800 people were killed as security forces moved to crush the protests. Thousands of opponents of the regime have been arrested.

EU foreign-policy chief Cathering Ashton, speaking in the European Parliament today, again urged Syrian authorities heed the demands of protesters.

"The Syrian people will not bow to tanks," Ashton said. "We say to the regime to change course and to change course now."

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also urged Syria today to halt the repression and heed calls for reform "before it is too late."

The EU has imposed a travel ban and an assets freeze on 13 Syrian officials, including one of Assad's brothers, and an embargo on the export of weapons to Syria.

UN envoys, meanwhile, have said Syria has dropped plans to run for a seat on the United Nations' top human rights body this year.

Syria had been one of four candidates -- with India, Indonesia, and the Philippines -- for four vacancies to be filled by Asia this year.

Earlier today, human rights observers in Syria said the government had released 300 people in the coastal city of Banias.

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
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