BEIRUT — More than 5,000 anti-government protesters in Syria took over the main square of the country’s third-largest city Monday, vowing to occupy the site until President Bashar Assad is ousted.
The Egypt-style standoff in the central city of Homs followed funeral processions by more than 10,000 mourners for some of those killed in clashes Sunday that a rights group said left at least 12 people dead. It also brought a high-stakes challenge to security forces over whether to risk more bloodshed — and international backlash — by trying to clear the square.
In the past month, Syrian security forces in uniforms and plainclothes have launched a deadly crackdown on demonstrations, killing at least 200 people, according to human rights groups. Many Syrians also say pro-government thugs — known as Shabiha — have terrorized neighbourhoods with tactics such as opening fire into the air.