CAIRO — Hundreds of thousands of protesters on Friday rushed into the streets across Syria to renew the call for the immediate end of President Bashar Assad's regime, four days after his speech pledging reform and dialogue failed to satisfy government opponents.
Assad finds himself further isolated globally as he faces the boldest challenge against his family's 40-year-rule more than three months after protests began. The European Union this week expanded sanctions — travel bans and asset freezes — against more people connected to the regime, and Turkey called on the Assad government to carry out promised reforms.
Activists said that 200,000 people demonstrated in Hama alone, where a 1982 massacre ordered by Assad's father left about 17,000 people dead. The protests there were unhindered by security forces. But in the suburbs of the capital, Damascus, where repression is fierce, and in the country's second-largest city, Aleppo, government forces responded to protests with violence, activists said.
Twenty people, including two young boys, were killed across the country, according to the Local Coordinating Committees, which track the Syrian protest movement. The reports could not be independently verified because of limited media access to Syria.
Overnight and into Friday, more than 1,500 Syrians fled into Turkey as the Syrian army moved closer to the border, witnesses said. The continued troop movement raised fears about possible clashes between the two nations.
Clashes in Yemen: Security forces fired at a funeral procession for an activist in the southern city of Aden, and gunmen responded by attacking a military tank, the government and local journalists said. Five people were killed. Separately, a car bomb killed three security personnel in the city. Meanwhile protesters again called on President Ali Abdullah Saleh to quit.
Information from the New York Times and Associated Press was used in this report.