ANTAKYA, Turkey -- Large protests marking the two-year anniversary of the Syrian uprising were held across the country Friday as the opposition vowed to continue its fight to topple President Bashar Assad.
As the fighting entered a third year, there were scant signs of a political solution that some world leaders have been pushing. More than 70,000 people have been killed, many of them women and children, according to the United Nations.
In Damascus, the capital, government security forces spread out across many neighborhoods in an effort to prevent large demonstrations, opposition activists reported. Protests occurred in southern, rebel-held neighborhoods.
“Today people came out despite the danger ... they came out to prove that the revolution is ongoing and victory is coming,” said activist Susan Ahmad, based in the Damascus suburbs. “And we’ll sacrifice with our lives for freedom and this is a warning to the criminal regime.”
In the suburbs, mostly under opposition rebel control, regime forces shelled many mosques during Friday prayers in an attempt to quell the public displays of dissent, Ahmad said. Despite the shelling, protesters still gathered. Almost two dozen people were killed, she said.
In the northern city of Aleppo, activists reported that large demonstrations filled rebel-controlled neighborhoods.
Southwest of the city, in the town of Khan Tuman, rebels seized control of an ammunition factory complex, which they said has been used to supply regular shelling on the surrounding areas.
Rebels said that controlling the weapons complex also brings them closer to seizing the Assad Military Academy, one of the largest remaining strongholds for the regime forces in Aleppo.
But not all opposition strongholds held anniversary rallies. In the town of Marea, in northern Aleppo province, no one came out as the public show of dissent now seems like an old tactic, activist Mamoon Khateeb said.
“The people have gotten sick of protests and most of the men are either in the refugee camps or carrying weapons,” he said. “Or looking for a seat [of power].”
Also Friday, European Union leaders did not agree to end an EU arms embargo on Syria. France and Britain have urged the EU to end the embargo and allow the delivery of weapons to opposition forces.