24 dead in latest Syrian protest
Activists say at least 24 Syrian civilians have been killed as security forces fired on anti-government protesters as part of a nationwide crackdown.
Syria-based rights activist Mustafa Osso said most of the deaths occurred in Damascus suburbs during daytime protests on Friday and late night demonstrations following evening Ramadan prayers.
He said five civilians were killed in the besieged city of Hama and its surrounding countryside.
The toll was confirmed by the Local Co-ordination Committees, a key activist groups tracking the Syrian uprising.
The state TV has broadcast images of burned buildings and empty rubble-strewn streets in Hama, the epicentre of the protests, claiming the military was putting an end to the rebellion in the city.
Under the suffocating clampdown, residents of the city warned that medical supplies were running out and food was rotting after six days without electricity.
The US State Department urged Americans to leave the country immediately.
Government forces began their ferocious assault on Hama on Sunday, cutting off electricity, phone services and internet and blocking supplies into the city of 800,000 as they shelled neighbourhoods and sent in tanks and ground raids.
Meanwhile, Syria's foreign minister later promised Syrians "free and fair" general elections by the end of the year. Walid al-Moallem said the new parliament will represent the aspirations of the Syrian people.
The four-year term of the current parliament expired earlier this year and President Bashar Assad is expected to set a date for new legislative elections before the end of 2011.