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“They shot at everything, there was smoke everywhere,” an activist in Homs told the AP by telephone, asking that his name not be used because he feared for his personal safety. “I saw people on the ground, some shot in their feet, some in the stomach.”

Hundreds of people had gathered Monday at Clock Square in the center of Homs, bringing mattresses, food and water to the site for an Egypt-style standoff. They vowed to stay until Assad is ousted — a brazen escalation of the monthlong uprising against the country’s authoritarian regime.

At least 200 people have been killed during the past month as security forces launched a deadly crackdown on the protest movement, human rights groups say. The government has coupled dry promises of reform with brutal tactics to quell the unrest, using the widely despised security forces and unleashing pro-regime thugs known as shabiha.

In London, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said he welcomed the lifting of the emergency law, but cautioned it was “only one part of a wider package of necessary reforms.”

“The Syrian authorities should do more to ensure the Syrian people experience real political progress without delay,” he said in a statement.

Associated Press writers Elizabeth A. Kennedy and Raphael G. Satter in London contributed to this report from Cairo.