Syrian forces shot dead 16 people on Friday when they fired on protesters demanding the removal of President Bashar al-Assad, activists said. The worst bloodshed was in Homs, where activists said eight protesters were killed and state television said a policeman was killed by gunmen. One person was also reported killed in the northern commercial city of Aleppo, the first protester to die there since unrest erupted in the south of the country in March. Tens of thousands of people protested in the southern province of Deraa where the revolt against Assad's rule began, as well as in the Kurdish east, the city of Hama north of Damascus, and suburbs of the capital itself.
Syrian rights groups say 1,300 civilians and more than 300 soldiers and police have been killed since the protests broke out in March, 10,000 people have been detained.
On Thursday state media said Rami Makhlouf, a cousin of president Assad, was quitting business and handing proceeds to charity. Makhlouf controls a string of businesses including Syria's largest mobile phone operator, duty free shops, an oil concession, an airline company and hotel, construction concerns, and shares in at least one bank. President Assad himself was expected to address the country soon.Assad has only spoken twice since the uprising began.