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But for the next two decades, until his death, Hafez Assad ruled uncontested and the massacre was seared into the minds of Syrians.

Though Bashar Assad has not done anything on the scale of the Hama massacre in his 11 years in power, his crackdown has evoked memories of his father’s brutal legacy.

The tactics include a policy of “collective punishment” by arresting entire families to pressure their relatives into turning themselves in. The regime also has turned flashpoint areas into security zones, flooded with soldiers, tanks and snipers.

But Ziadeh said the mere fact that people staged protests despite all these measures shows that the regime’s strategy is backfiring.

“They may have succeeded in suppressing the protest movement for a while, but in the long run, these tactics will only backfire,” he said. “The regime is damaged and it will be very hard for it to stay in power.”

Rallies were held in major areas including the capital, Damascus, and its suburbs, Banias on the coast and Qamishli in the northeast.

A prominent human rights activist told The Associated Press that 30 people were killed Friday, all of them protesters.

The toll included 15 people in Homs, six in Hama, five in the seaside city of Latakia and one in Deir El-Zour, the activist said. He asked that his name not be published out of fear for his personal safety.

Footage posted on YouTube showed protesters in Hama frantically trying to resuscitate a man lying on the ground with a bloodied face and shirt, while people shouted “God is great!”

State-run television said an army officer and four policemen were shot dead by a “terrorist group” in Homs. It did not elaborate.

“We were chanting, peaceful, peaceful, and we didn’t even throw a stone at the security forces,” said a witness in Homs, who said some 10,000 people were in the streets. “But they waited for us to reach the main square and then they opened fire on us.”

Gunshots rang out even after the protesters dispersed, said the witness, who like other activists spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of government reprisals.

“The bullets are like rain,” he said. “Everyone is terrified.”

Syrian authorities also detained Riad Seif, a leading opposition figure and former lawmaker who has been an outspoken critic of the regime during the uprising, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Amnesty International said at least a dozen prominent rights and political activists in Syria have been forced into hiding after receiving direct threats of violence and arrests from authorities. They include opposition figures Haytham al-Maleh and Walid al-Bunni and the son and daughter of Kamal Labwani, who is a political prisoner.

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