Bodies of two men shot dead during a crackdown on anti-government protests in Syria. Image taken from video posted on Youtube by syriarev.
Gunshots and explosions rattled the restive city of Homs in central Syria on Monday as a government crackdown on anti-government demonstrations intensified for a fourth day. According to our Observers on the ground, the surge in violence was fuelled by the killing of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, whose demise last week sparked fears within Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime that the same could happen at home.
Thousands of protesters turned out across Syria on Friday, galvanised by news of Gaddafi’s capture and death in his hometown of Sirte. Syrian security forces reacted with ruthless force, killing at least 19 people in Homs alone, activists said. The total number of protester deaths in the country on Friday was put at 26.
By Sunday, amateur images of the Syrian crackdown began to trickle onto the Internet, among them a video that captured the tragic deaths of two young men in the streets of Homs.
In the clip, one can see a person lying motionless on the ground. Several seconds later, a man darts into the street and tries to drag the body to safety, but makes it only a few paces before a shot rings out and he collapses.
Video posted on Youtube by syriarev.
The same night the Local Coordination Committees, a network of opposition activists based in Syria, reported the crackdown’s death toll at 67. According to figures published by the UN on October 6, at least 2,900 people from both sides have been killed since Assad first sought to quash anti-government protests against his rule in mid-March.

“There will always be someone who will risk their life to help a friend”

Mona (not her real name) is an Observer in Homs.
After Gaddafi’s death, the regime went crazy. They were big Gaddafi supporters, and the country’s minority Alawite population viewed him as a victim [President Bashar al-Assad is an Alawi Muslim, a branch of Shiite Islam, which makes up around 11 percent of Syria’s population, in contrast to the country’s 74 percent majority Sunni population]. Security forces have begun routing out army deserters to keep any guns or weapons from landing in the opposition’s hands, because they are terrified the same thing could happen here.
The fighting is still going on – it never really stops. The number of security forces and soldiers in the city is constantly growing. Before each big raid more of them come – the tanks, the soldiers, they never go away.
Early this morning, explosions could be heard booming all over Homs and the walls of my home were shaking. I rarely leave my home to go out, but today I had to. My dad accompanied me, and it was so dangerous. There was smoke and fire everywhere.
The video of the man being shot while trying to help his friend is horrible, but these types of incidents, or sometimes worse, happen everyday. Security forces and soldiers willingly open fire on people here for a number of reasons – those who are loyal to Assad and are a part of his regime are afraid of losing power, and others pull the trigger because they believe whatever the media tells them to.
Despite this, there will always be someone who will risk their life to help a friend, like in the video. We are all one family here. I know neighbours who will give all their food to someone in need, and sleep without having eaten themselves.
We are not afraid. Even though the attacks against us have got worse and we are unarmed, I’ll bet you that tonight people will hit the streets and protest some more. After 40 years of being repressed, what else is there to be afraid of?”

“The violence has worsened… the security forces and army are much more aggressive”

Rami Hana (not his real name) is an Observer in Homs.
The video was recorded yesterday [Sunday, October 23rd] in Homs’s central neighbourhood of Al Khalidiya, which is predominantly Sunni. Security forces had opened fire on homes in the area, and several people were gathered in the street. You can see in the video that there is a man lying wounded on the ground. His friend then goes to help him and as he’s doing so, the security forces shoot him too. Neither one of them survived.
Homs was bombarded by bombs yesterday and there was heavy weapons’ fire in several areas of the city. Today the violence has worsened – the neighbourhood of Deir Balba is in flames and the security forces and army are much more aggressive.
I think the crackdown has intensified in recent days because of what’s been going on in Libya. Muammar Gaddafi’s death has frightened President Bashar al-Assad’s supporters, including his soldiers. Some of Assad’s followers have begun to flee Homs. I think they’re afraid because they see what has happened with the uprising in Libya and realise they too may have to face the consequences of their actions one day".
Post written with FRANCE 24 journalist Rachel Holman.