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More deaths in Syria on day of 'patience and determination'

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Human rights abuses in Syria?
  • NEW: Eight people are killed, an activist group says
  • The U.N. team's mission was to assess the humanitarian needs of the Syrian people
  • It concludes there is no nation-wide humanitarian crisis
  • But it says people in areas of unrest "felt extremely intimidated"

(CNN) -- Security forces surrounding the Rifaie Mosque in the Damascus suburb of Kafr Sousa fired tear gas early Saturday on thousands of worshipers as they ended their prayers and tried to leave the building, the Local Coordination Committees of Syria (LCC) reported.

Many of the worshipers returned inside the mosque, where they chanted slogans calling for the fall of the regime, said the LCC, which organizes and documents anti-government protests.

Later, the organization reported that security forces were making random arrests outside the mosque.

In the restive city of Daraa, where the arrests in March of 15 teenagers for scrawling anti-government graffiti on walls ignited the country's expressions of discontent, security forces fired randomly in an attempt to disperse two groups of demonstrators who were chanting, "God is great!"

Tanks were surrounding more than 2,000 protesters and two armored vehicles were outside Daraa's Omari Mosque, preventing worshipers from leaving the mosque to protest.

In all, eight people were killed Friday in Syria, the LCC said.

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The state-run Syrian Arab News Agency reported that 11 army and security forces were killed by "terrorist groups" in Homs and Deir Ezzor. Another 16 soldiers were wounded, SANA said.

CNN was not able to independently confirm the reports.

On Friday, at least one person was wounded when security forces opened fire on a group of demonstrators in the Bab Sbaa neighborhood of Homs, according to the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition group.

The demonstrators, who were calling for President Bashar al-Assad's ouster, had gathered for a funeral of a man killed Thursday by sniper fire, the group said.

In a separate incident that occurred outside Damascus, security forces fired on a car, wounding at least one man, the group said.

And in Deir Ezzor, at least one demonstrator was wounded when Syrian security forces opened fire there, the group said.

Demonstrators had dubbed Friday a day of "patience and determination." YouTube videos showed demonstrations in a number of cities. "The people demand the execution of the president!" was one chant from demonstrators in Homs. CNN is not able to confirm the authenticity of the videos.

The violence occurred on one of the most holy days of Ramadan and on the same day that a U.N. team, having completed a five-day humanitarian mission to Syria, concluded that there is "an urgent need to protect civilians from the excessive use of force."

The August 20-25 mission, which was intended to assess the humanitarian needs of the Syrian people, also concluded that there is no country-wide humanitarian crisis, the world body said in a statement.

It added that "the constant presence of government officials" limited the visitors' ability to assess the situation. "However, the people it was able to talk to in areas of previous or ongoing unrest said they felt extremely intimidated and under constant threat."

Though the Syrian government allowed participants to visit any location they requested, "it is doubtful that Syria has fully complied with its assurances of providing free and unimpeded access," the statement concluded.

Though government officials had vowed open access to the U.N. mission, they have restricted access to the country by international journalists.

Also Friday, Russia proposed a draft resolution that neither condemns Syria nor calls for the imposition of sanctions, as pressed for by the West.

Instead, the Russian draft calls upon Damascus to speed the pace of reform "in order to effectively address the legitimate aspirations and concerns of Syria's people."

In addition, it urges the Syrian opposition "to engage in political dialogue with the Syrian authorities with a view to holding a substantial and in-depth discussion on the ways of reforming Syrian society."

That was not enough for Mark Kornblau, spokesman for the U.S. Mission to the United Nations.

"The regime's violence has continued unabated, the international condemnation has grown louder, and the Security Council's response should reflect those realities," he said, noting that a draft resolution proposed this week by the United States and its European allies on the Security Council contains both elements.

No timetable has been set for a vote on either resolution.

Also Friday, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov and the new Syrian ambassador to Russia, Riyad Haddad, discussed the situation in Syria, according to the state-run Itar-Tass news agency.

Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said Tuesday that "we don't think" the time was right for sanctions against Syria, and Brazil, China, India and South Africa also expressed reservations.

Security Council resolutions need at least nine votes to pass on the 15-member council with no vetoes.

Al-Assad's regime is accused of attacking peaceful demonstrators in an effort to crush a pro-democracy movement that emerged in the aftermath of similar protests throughout North Africa and the Middle East in the "Arab spring."

This week, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights said that more than 2,200 people have been killed in Syria since mid-March, with more than 350 people reportedly killed since the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan on August 1.

On Thursday, the U.S. State Department accused the Syrian government of carrying out a "targeted, brutal attack" on a popular Syrian political cartoonist, Ali Farzat.

Shortly after a cartoon by Farzat depicting al-Assad hitching a ride with outgoing Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi began circulating in Syria, Farzat was reportedly kidnapped by masked men, beaten and thrown unconscious from a van onto a road in Damascus.

"The regime's thugs focused their attention on his hands, beating them furiously and breaking one of them -- a clear message that he should stop drawing," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in a statement.

Passers-by reportedly found the beaten 60-year-old cartoonist and took him to a hospital. A photograph circulating Thursday on the Internet showed Farzat with a bandage over his right eye, his face badly bruised and heavy bandages wrapped around both hands.

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