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Syrian forces fire on protesters; 8 killed

By the CNN Wire Staff
Men throw stones at Syrian riot police during clashes in the coastal town of Banias on Friday, May 27.
Men throw stones at Syrian riot police during clashes in the coastal town of Banias on Friday, May 27.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: A U.N. Security Council diplomat say there's no vote imminent on Syria
  • More deaths reported in southern towns
  • A total of five protesters were shot by security forces in a southern town, a witness says
  • Activist say about 830 protesters have been killed in recent months

(CNN) -- Syrian security forces fired on anti-government protesters in several southern towns Friday, killing at least eight people, organizers said.

Bullets flew in the early morning hours as hundreds took to the streets in Dael to chant for support of the military, separate from the security forces, said the witness, who refused to be named for fear of his safety.

A curfew was enforced until 6 a.m. and protesters at first were not allowed to pick up the bodies of their fallen, the witness said.

"They left our martyrs on the street and we couldn't evacuate them. Then they cut the power on the city ...," he said. "We went out and buried our martyrs -- the military still there, but the security forces gone. But they will be back again."

Four people were killed there, according to protest organizers, known as the local coordination committees of Syria. Three were killed in the suburbs of Damascus, and one death was reported in Al Zabadani.

CNN has not been granted access into Syria and is unable to independently verify witness accounts.

Will Syria be criticized at U.N.?
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Since March, Syria has been torn by street protests against political repression and a fierce security crackdown against demonstrators.

The government's harsh actions toward marchers and its thousands of mass arrests have drawn widespread criticism.

Roughly 830 people have been killed in the protests, according to the Syrian Human Rights Information Link.

That number does not include security personnel, many of whom have been killed in attacks by "armed groups," according to the Syrian government.

Protesters have set up local coordination committees across Syria to organize the demonstrations, typically on Fridays, though they have been met with brute force on a regular basis.

Every week, the demonstrations have particular themes. May 20 was "Freedom" Friday in honor of the Syrian Kurdish protesters. This week's protests are themed around "Homeland Protector," in support of Syrian troops.

An e-mail from the coordination committees to participants says protesters will carry flowers for the soldiers and chant for the soldiers "to stand with them and support them."

"The protesters demand to their army that they should follow the lead of the Tunisian and Egyptian armies and defend the people against a group of mercenaries fighting for the regime."

The memo also warns against an even harsher response from security forces: "Because landlines and Internet are not working in many places, we are worried that the government repression of the demonstrations today may be severe. It will be more difficult than usual to deliver news out of Syria."

The clashes have spurred people to flee to other countries, such as Turkey and Lebanon.

The United States has imposed sanctions on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and other senior officials. This month, U.S. President Barack Obama singled out Syria for criticism during a speech on the Middle East.

Still, in contrast to the sweeping multi-national push against Libya and its embattled leader Moammar Gadhafi, there has not been any similar movement yet regarding Syria.

Gerard Araud, France's ambassador to the United Nations, told reporters Friday night that it was unlikely that there will be any U.N. Security Council vote on Syria through at least the end of May -- when France's rotation as the council president ends.

Another diplomat on the Security Council said Thursday that members did not want to submit a resolution only to have it vetoed by China or Russia, both permanent members of the council.

"As France, I think we would like a vote as soon as possible," Araud said. "But personally, I don't feel we are there."

CNN's Arwa Damon and Richard Roth contributed to this report.

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