Syrian security forces fire on rallies, killing 13

By ELIZABETH A. KENNEDY | October 28, 2011 | 9:20 AM EDT

Two Syrian regime women supporters hold a banner with a sarcastic caricature on it in Umayyad Square in downtown Damascus, Syria. Wednesday Oct. 26, 2011. Tens of thousands of Syrians packed a Damascus square Wednesday in a show of support for embattled President Bashar Assad, a few hours ahead of a visit by senior Arab officials probing ways to start a dialogue between the regime and the opposition. (AP Photo/Muzaffar Salman)

BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian security forces killed at least 13 people Friday and authorities disrupted telephone and Internet service in restive areas during mass protests calling for the downfall of President Bashar Assad's regime, activists said.

Syria's uprising has proved remarkably resilient over the past seven months, with protests erupting every week to denounce the regime. The U.N. estimates the government crackdown on the protests has killed 3,000 people since March.

Friday's death toll was at least 13, according to two main activist groups, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Local Coordinating Committees.

Syria has largely sealed off the country from foreign journalists and prevented independent reporting, making it difficult to confirm events on the ground.

Communications were spotty Friday in the Damascus suburb of Douma and the central city of Homs, which have seen major anti-government protests, activists said. The move appeared to be an attempt to cut off the ability to organize and report on the protests.

Friday's deaths were mostly in Homs and Hama in central Syria.

Majd Amer, an activist in Homs said sporadic gunfire could be heard as protesters poured out of mosques following Friday prayers.

It is difficult to gauge the strength of the revolt in Syria, a country of 22 million people. The regime remains strong as well and in no imminent danger of collapse, setting the stage for what could be a drawn-out and bloody stalemate.

The Syrian government insists the unrest is being driven by terrorists and foreign extremists looking to stir up sectarian strife.