Tens of thousands—perhaps hundreds of thousands—of protesters rallied across Syria today in an effort to show Arab League monitors the extent of opposition anger. At least 10 were reported killed in ensuing clashes with security forces, the BBC reports; the deaths follow up to 40 others yesterday. But the arrival of the monitors has reportedly sparked new optimism. "This Friday is different from any other Friday. It is a transformative step. People are eager to reach the monitors and tell them about their suffering," says one activist.
Still, protesters say security forces are cracking down harder than ever. A watchdog group reported as many as 32 deaths across the country today, and another activist group says 130 have been killed since the Arab League monitors arrived this week. "It's the first time that they were showing their weapons outside," says a Damascus resident. "They were telling people: 'Once you just say the word, we will shoot you.'" Troops shot at protesters in several cities, including firing live rounds to break up a protest of some 70,000. The leader of the Arab League monitors, however, presented a very different story. "Some places looked a bit of a mess, but there was nothing frightening," said Sudanese Gen. Mustafa al-Dabi; some activists want him gone. (Read more Syria stories.)