BEIRUT – Syrian security forces fired on tens of thousands of mourners during funeral processions Saturday, killing at least nine people as the mounting death toll prompted two Syrian lawmakers to resign in disgust over the killings.
The lawmakers, Nasser Hariri and Khalil Rifai, are from the southern region of Daraa that unleashed the protest movement in mid-March after a group of teenagers were arrested there for scrawling anti-regime graffiti on a wall.
"If I cannot protect the chests of my people from these treacherous strikes, then there is no meaning for me to stay in the People's Assembly. I declare my resignation," Hariri told Al-Jazeera in an interview.
The resignations were exceedingly rare in Syria, where nearly all opposition figures are either jailed or exiled.
But the bloodshed so far has only served to invigorate protesters whose demands have snowballed from modest reforms to the downfall of President Bashar Assad. Each Friday, growing numbers of people in multiple cities have taken to the streets despite the near certainty that they would come under swift attack from security forces and shadowy pro-government gunmen known as "shabiha."
Friday was the deadliest day of the uprising, with at least 76 people killed as Syrian security forces fired bullets and tear gas at tens of thousands of protesters across the country. The crackdown signaled that the regime was prepared to turn more ruthless to put down the revolt.
The death toll continued to rise Saturday as security forces fired on funeral processions, killing at least nine people.
Witnesses said security forces killed four people in Douma, a suburb of the capital. Human rights activist Ammar Qurabi said five people were killed in the southern village of Izraa and the nearby village of Sheikh Miskeen.
The witness account could not be independently confirmed because Syria has expelled journalists and restricted access to trouble spots. They spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.
"They prevented us from continuing our way to the cemetery," said the witness in Douma, who said he was among at least 50,000 people taking part in the funerals there.
© Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.