DAMASCUS- As crowds gathered for memorials to victims of Saturday's car bombs, international press reports said that security forces broke up an opposition march of more than 200 people when protesters began shouting "the people want to topple the regime". The phrase has echoed through the wave of Arab uprisings that began last year and has toppled autocratic rulers in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen.
"They were walking through an area in central Damascus, near SANA (the state news agency). At first they shouted slogans against violence and the police didn't do anything, but as soon as they started to call for regime change the police rushed in and started beating people with canes," Rami Abdelrahman, from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told Reuters Sunday.
The protest, which called for non-violent resistance to the government, had been led by moderate opposition leaders previously tolerated by the government because of their calls for dialogue and rejection of foreign intervention.
Activists said the Sunday march aimed to commemorate the peaceful roots of Syria's uprising, which has been overshadowed by a growing armed insurgency against state security forces.
Press reports abroad indicated that Syria`s Security forces arrested Mohammed Sayyed Rassas, a leader of the National Coordinating Body for Democratic Change (NCB), an opposition group which had visited China and Russia in attempts to promote dialogue between Assad and the opposition.
Most opposition groups have rejected the NCB over its insistence on non-violence and its stance against foreign intervention, arguing the government's fierce crackdown has made arming the uprising inevitable.
Syria`s riot Police also briefly harassed Fayyez Sara, who headed the Committee to Revive Civil Society, other activists said.
The struggle and clashes in Syria have become increasingly bloody as peaceful protest has given way to rebellion by armed groups.
Heavy fighting raged in the northwestern provinces of al-Rakkah and Deir Ezzor as military vehicles were deployed into cities on Sunday.
Reports about clashes at Damascus countryside and other places all over the country, especially at Idleb and Daraa, have been uploading online and been quoted by many foreign and international media agencies.
Media outlets clarified " News and reports about Syria clashes cannot independently be confirmed, along with casualties or attacks in Syria; because the government has severely restricted the access of international journalists."
Syria was hit by a third lethal car bombing of the weekend on Sunday as UN teams readied for a government-led humanitarian mission and to try to set up a monitoring operation to end a year of bloodshed.
The United Nations says more than 8,000 people have been killed by official and security forces in the crackdown on a revolt against President Bashar al-Assad`s regime. Opposition activists say the overall toll is more than 9,000, most of them civilians.
Syrian Authorities say they are fighting foreign militants who have killed more than 2,000 members of the security forces.