Syrian security forces fired tear gas and live bullets into crowds of protesters at rallies across the country today. At least 49 people were killed, according to human rights groups, and witnesses tell the AP that one of them was an 11-year-old boy. The state-run news agency reports that officers used tear gas and water cannons to “prevent clashes,” but that doesn’t gel with witness accounts. “Bullets started flying over our heads like heavy rain,” says one witness.
The protests broke out after Friday prayers in the Damascus suburb of Douma, as well as in the central city of Homs, the coastal city Banias, the Kurdish region in the northeast, and the southern province of Daraa, where the uprisings began last month. Tens of thousands participated, in what activists had hyped as the biggest rallies yet against the regime. The BBC marks today's death toll at 40, the highest in five weeks of unrest.