The heroic uprising of the Syrian people against brutality and despotism continues to grow despite intimidation, mass arrests, torture, extreme violence and murder.
The biggest street protests since the movement erupted in March took place on Friday 15 July.
The marchers were demanding the release of political prisoners. It is estimated that 10,000 have been detained since March.
Rami Abdel Rahman, of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said one million people turned out in just two cities: Hama and the eastern Kurdish town of Deir al-Zour.
In the capital — heavily policed Damascus — 20 000 marched and 16 were killed. In Deraa, to the south on the Jordanian border, mass protests resumed again following a brutal clampdown. One activist commented, “All hell broke loose, the firing was intense.”
Rights activist Mustafa Osso said some 100 soldiers defected and joined the protesters in al-Boukamal near Iraq's border late on Saturday. He said protesters and the soldiers marched in the streets chanting “The people and the army are the same.”
According to al-Jazeera, on Sunday 17 July 2000 Syrian troops followed by tanks stormed the town of Zabadani, 40km from Damascus, near the border with Lebanon.
The Ba'thist state has rounded up more than 500 people since Friday. Syrian authorities have also detained a leading democratic opposition figure, Ali Abdullah, after a raid on his home in the Damascus suburb of Qatana on the morning of Sunday 17 July. Abdullah, who is a writer and a member of the Damascus Declaration calling for peaceful democratic transition, was released from jail on 30 May, following a pardon.
The government began a "National Dialogue" in mid-July which was boycotted by the opposition as a sham.
On 16 July the National Salvation Congress, a gathering of 350 expatriate Syrians meeting in Istanbul, Turkey, elected a 25-member board. The conference issued a statement saying activists in Damascus would elect another 50 board members. The aim had been to form a shadow government, but divisions between the participants - democrats, Islamists and Kurds – prevented that.
Kurdish organisations pulled out accusing other participants of ignoring Kurdish rights.
The aim was to hold simultaneous meetings in Syria and Istanbul, but the Syrian military broke up preparations for the meeting in Damascus on Friday. Despite the crackdown, some Syrian opposition activists met at a small private location in Damascus and used an internet phone link to address the Istanbul gathering.
The US’s verbal contest with the Syrian state was ratcheted up following attacks by regime thugs on the US and French embassies.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that President Bashar al-Assad had “lost legitimacy” to rule.