ESCALATION

Syrian Forces Fire on Protesters

Protesters in the central city of Homs were met with a fresh crackdown on Thursday night by Syrian forces, after President Bashar al-Assad told U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that his troops had ended operations in Damascus, which he said is besieged by "armed terrorist gangs." But Assad apparently went back on his word: Human-rights groups reported heavy shooting in Damascus on Thursday night, where demonstrators were marching after evening prayers. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed that forces were setting up checkpoints in surrounding suburbs. Tanks have now reportedly moved into Homs, where one protester was shot dead and another severely wounded earlier in the evening, according to activists. Earlier today, President Obama issued a statement demanding that Assad step down, and was backed by European leaders. The U.N. announced it will send a team to assess the situation on Saturday.