Syrian troops fire on large crowds of protesters after 10 soldiers killed


Syrian troops fired bullets and tear gas to disperse thousands of protesters yesterday, according to activists, as state media reported that a roadside bomb killed 10 soldiers.

Protesters spilled on to the streets in cities and towns across Syria, calling for the downfall of President Bashar al-Assad and chanting in support of rebel forces. Protests were reported in the capital Damascus and its suburbs, as well as in the northern city of Aleppo, the central regions of Hama and Homs, in eastern towns near the Iraq border and in the southern Daraa province.

In Paris, the French Foreign Minister, Alain Juppé, said the international community had to live up to its responsibilities in Syria and prepare for the possible failure of a fragile peace plan. He said that if special envoy Kofi Annan's peace plan "doesn't function, we have to envisage other methods".

A ceasefire that went into effect last week has been unravelling, but the truce is still seen as the most viable way to end the bloodshed that has killed more than 9,000 people since the uprising against Assad began 13 months ago. The UN has sent seven international observers into Syria, with the hopes of boosting the numbers soon.