Al Jazeera reports:

Protesters calling for freedom gathered in Damascus and other areas around Syria as security forces ordered journalists to leave a southern city where a brutal weeklong siege on demonstrations killed dozens of people.

At least 200 people marched in the centre of Damascus after Friday prayers in support of the people of Daraa, scene of protests against Baath Party rule, a Reuters news agency witness said....A human rights activists, quoting witnesses, said thousands of people were gathering in the town of Douma outside the capital, pledging support for the people of Daraa. The activists asked to remain anonymous for fear of retribution.

Hundreds of villagers also marched to Daraa in support of the people there, chanting "Freedom is ringing", a witness said. In the capital itself, outside the famous Ummayad Mosque, scores of people were gathering.

And the New York Times suggests that the protests have at least spooked Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad:

Syria‘s repressive leadership came under unexpectedly heavy pressure on Thursday as thousands of angry demonstrators massed again in the southern city of Dara’a, demanding democratic reform and protesting the deaths of more than a dozen people shot by security forces in the past week.

The government of President Bashar al-Assad, unaccustomed to concessions, rapidly announced a series of reforms, including a salary increase for public workers, greater freedom for the news media and political parties, and a reconsideration of the emergency rule that has clamped down the nation for 48 years.

Mr. Assad also ordered prisoners taken during the crackdown this week to be freed. An adviser said publicly that Mr. Assad had ordered troops not to fire live rounds at protesters in Dara’a and that “there were, maybe, some mistakes.”

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