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Syrians flee growing crackdown

BEIRUT — Hundreds of Syrians, some with gunshot wounds, crossed into neighboring Lebanon in search of a refuge from the growing government crackdown in their homeland, a Lebanese security official said Saturday. Other Syrians marched in a funeral for victims of the crackdown outside Damascus, demanding President Bashar Assad's ouster.

Most refugees arriving at the Lebanese border came after Syrian security forces opened fire on protesters in anti-regime demonstrations across Syria on Friday. Syrian activists said 20 people were killed, including two children aged 12 and 13.

Most of those deaths occurred in the Barzeh neighborhood of the capital, Damascus, and in the suburb of al-Kaswa. Footage posted online by activists showed dozens of people in a funeral procession for three of the dead in al-Kaswa Saturday, shouting "Allahu Akbar!" or "God is great!" and "Bashar, get out!"

The army sent reinforcements into Barzeh on Saturday, setting up checkpoints and arresting about 150 people, as well as into the suburbs of al-Kaswa, Zabadani and Bloudan, said Rami Abdul-Rahman of the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Others had died Friday when security forces opened fire in the central city of Homs, sending residents fleeing to the Lebanese border 20 miles away.

The Syrian opposition says some 1,400 people have been killed as the government has cracked down on a movement demanding an end to four decades of autocratic Assad family rule — a popular uprising renewed each Friday after weekly Muslim prayers.

The violence has prompted thousands of Syrians to seek a safe haven in neighboring countries.

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