In the nearby village of Sanamein, eyewitnesses reported troops opened fire on protesters who were seeking to march to Daraa, killing another 15 people.
Videos posted on YouTube showed bodies of victims laid out in front of weeping relatives in several cities. Another showed youth marching though the Damascus bazaar, chanting, "With our souls, with our blood, we sacrifice for you, Daraa." After dark, troops opened fire on protests in the Damascus suburb of Maadamiyeh and killed three people, according to an AP report.
Demonstrators were attacked by security forces in the port city of Latakia, where at least four people were killed, including a 13-year-old boy, who was beaten to death by police. There were protests in Homs, where another demonstrator was reported killed, and in Raqqa, Zabadani and Duma.
At a protest by 1,000 people in Tel, just north of Damascus, demonstrators denounced Assad's family as "thieves." There was even a protest reported in Hama, the city where Assad's father notoriously organized a bloodbath in 1982, massacring an estimated 20,000 people after an uprising by the Muslim Brotherhood.
Assad made a nationally televised speech Thursday, to promise economic concessions and political reforms, a maneuver typical of those carried out by right-wing dictatorships facing mass revolts over the past three months. He promised to consider lifting the emergency law, which has given the ruling Baath Party dictatorial power since 1963.
His chief spokeswoman, Bouthaina Shaaban, read out a list of decrees, including a pay raise for government workers of 10 to 20 percent, the provision of health insurance, a cut in consumption taxes, and promises to increase job opportunities, crack down on corrupt officials, and provide more freedom for press and political opposition.
Shaaban claimed that Assad had given direct orders not to kill opposition demonstrators. "I was a witness to the instructions of His Excellency that live ammunition should not be fired--even if the police, security forces or officers of the status were being killed," she claimed. Only hours later came the bloody events in Daraa and other cities.
One Assad decree established a committee "to contact and listen to citizens in Daraa." Shaaban added, "Every decision that is being made has taken into account the people of Daraa." she said.