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Death toll from Syrian protests on the rise

By the CNN Wire Staff
Syrian security forces fired on anti-government protesters in several southern towns Friday.
Syrian security forces fired on anti-government protesters in several southern towns Friday.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Up to 13 dead after security forces fired upon protestors Friday
  • NEW: Government offers office hours for "listening to complaints"
  • NEW: Complaints may also be left in boxes at police stations
  • Activists say about 830 protesters killed since protests began

(CNN) -- The death toll in Friday's violence in Syria rose to as many as 13 Saturday, according to human rights activists.

Syrian security forces fired on anti-government protesters in several southern towns Friday, according to organizers known as local coordination committees. The group issued a list of names in a statement Saturday of all but one of those they claim were killed.

Bullets flew Friday's 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.

Four people were killed there, according to protest organizers, and three died in the suburbs of Damascus. One death was reported in Al Zabadani, three in Homs and one in the village of Moart Shoreen, where 12-year-old boy lost his life, according to the group.

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The Syrian National Organisation for Human Rights group also confirmed those deaths by name, and added an additional fatality in Jabla, bringing the total to 13.

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

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. May 27 was 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 Syrian government has offered to hear complaints from citizens for four hours, one day a week, according to state media. "Interior Minister Maj. Gen. Mohammad Ibrahim al-Shaar on Friday specified Monday of every week for meeting citizens and listening to their complaints related to the Interior Ministry from 11 AM to 3 PM at the Ministry in Dummar," Syrian state news agency SANA reported Saturday.

Citizens may also "continue" to file "written complaints via the complaint boxes distributed in front of police departments" as well as on the ministry's website, SANA reported.

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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