Security forces opened fire today on demonstrators trying to break an army blockade on the southern city of Daraa, while thousands of others across Syria defied a protest ban and denounced President Bashar Assad's harsh crackdown on a six-week uprising. At least 42 people were killed, including 15 in the march on Daraa, according to witnesses and a human rights group. The protesters in cities across Syria called for Assad's ouster, with some chanting "We are not afraid!"
Human rights activist Mustafa Osso said 42 people were killed, but the death toll could rise. His human rights group, based in Syria, compiles casualty tolls from the crackdown. Large demonstrations broke out in Damascus, the central city of Homs, the coastal cities of Banias and Latakia, the northern cities of Raqqa and Hama, and the northeastern town of Qamishli. The unrest follows the resignation of hundreds of government officials. (Read more Syria protests stories.)