Protests Spread in Syria as Clashes Once Again Turn Violent

There are reports of gunfire in Daraa and deaths in a nearby town

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1:44 pm - CNN is reporting that security forces killed nine people in Daraa on Friday, while Al Jazeera says security forces killed three people in a district in Damascus after demonstrators confronted a line of cars driven by Assad supporters, according to residents.

The reforms Syrian President Bashar al-Assad proposed yesterday appear to have had little effect on protesters in  the southern city of Daraa, who called for freedom during a funeral procession--captured in the still image above--in honor of nine demonstrators killed by security forces on Wednesday.

Now, Reuters is reporting heavy gunfire in the city after protesters burned a statue of former Syrian President Hafez al-Assad. Al Jazeera is reporting that Syrian security forces killed at least 20 people in the nearby town of Sanamein.

One of the main questions analysts are asking in the "is-Syria-next" debate is whether the unrest could spread from the south to the rest of the country. Events today suggest that the protests are indeed becoming more widespread, in what many analysts say amounts to the greatest challenge Assad has experienced in his 11-year rule.

Syrian security forces have arrested dozens of people during a demonstration in the capital, Damascus, while around 1,000 people rallied in the nearby town of Tel, Reuters reports. Protests have also broken out in Hama--a city that Assad 's father, Hafez, assaulted in 1982 to squash an Islamist uprising, killing at least 10,000 people--Homs, Banias, and Deir Ezzor, according to Al Jazeera. All the "Day of Dignity" protests express solidarity with the people of Daraa.

On Thursday, the ruling Baath Party announced that it would raise public worker salaries, grant more press freedoms, release Syrians detained during the protests, and consider lifting the country's long-standing emergency law and permitting multiple political parties.

Al Jazeera has compiled some video footage of protests in Syria today. This video allegedly depicts a demonstration in Daraa:

Another video appears to show protests in Damascus:

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