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Syrian protesters set sights on riskier goal: Unseating Assad

At least 49 people were killed today when Syrian security forces used live ammunition to disperse the largest antiregime demonstrations yet.

Syrian antigovernment protesters march during a demonstration following Friday prayers near Damascus, Syria, on April 22. Security forces fired live bullets and tear gas Friday at tens of thousands of people shouting for freedom and democracy in several areas across the country.

AP

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Syrian security forces used live ammunition and tear gas to disperse crowds as tens of thousands of protestors gathered in the largest and bloodiest anti-regime protest in six weeks.

At least 49 people, including an 11-year-old boy, were killed by early evening as the regime intensified its crackdown on the nationwide protests, according to eyewitnesses and Syrian opposition activists. The heaviest toll was reportedly in the southern Daraa region, but deadly clashes also occurred around Damascus and Homs when protesters flooded into the streets after Muslim prayers.

The rallies were a well-organized and calculated sign of defiance against President Bashar al-Assad, who introduced a raft of reforms this week in an attempt to stave off the most serious unrest faced by the ruling Baath Party since it seized power nearly 50 years ago.

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But the reforms, including lifting the emergency law, have come too late to dampen the resolve of the opposition. And with more than 200 people killed in the past six weeks, the protest movement has set its sights on the larger – and riskier – goal of unseating the regime.

The big question in the days ahead is whether protests will not only sustain momentum but expand to include those Syrians – and there are still many – who fear the consequences of the collapse of a regime that, while repressive, has ensured almost 50 years of relative domestic stability.

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