BEIRUT, Lebanon — Hundreds of thousands of Syrians defied a violent government crackdown Friday, insisting they will not be terrified into submission through bullets, mass arrests and more than four months of attacks by security forces. At least five people were killed, activists said.
Friday marked a clear attempt by the opposition to present a united front against the Assad family dynasty, the only regime Syrians have known for more than 40 years.
"One, one, one, the Syrian people are one!" protesters shouted in the capital, Damascus, in what has become a weekly ritual, with hundreds of thousands of people flooding the streets across the country demanding President Bashar Assad leave power.
The regime has banned nearly all foreign media and restricted coverage, making it nearly impossible to independently verify events on the ground or casualty figures. By some estimates, more than a million people were protesting Friday.
The Syrian conflict has become a test of wills between protesters emboldened by the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia, and an entrenched family dynasty that refuses to relinquish power.
Although the protests are growing, a strong alternative to Assad has yet to emerge — in part because dissidents have long been silenced, imprisoned or exiled by the regime in Damascus.
But the uprising refuses to die, and some say the country is nearing a tipping point.
"The Assad regime faces a stark choice: change or be changed," Paul Salem, director of the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut, wrote in an analysis of the situation this week. "Either way, Syria will be a very different place by the end of this year."
Gadhafi trial urged: A Libyan rebel spokesman, Ali al-Issawi, insisted Friday that Moammar Gadhafi stand trial at the international war crimes tribunal, despite growing Western consensus that the dictator be allowed to stay in his homeland if he relinquishes power.
NEW PROTESTS IN EGYPT: Several thousand protesters marched toward Egypt's Ministry of Defense and headquarters of the country's military rulers on Friday. Armored vehicles and hundreds of military police blocked the road leading to the ministry. Many protesters have grown mistrustful of the military, accusing it of dragging its feet in bringing former regime officials to trial.