The violence in Syria continues to escalate: 44 people were killed Friday as thousands of protesters gathered in several towns, including Damascus, which had yet to see serious clashes. A spokesman for the Syrian National Organization for Human Rights reported Saturday that more than half were killed in the northwest province of Idlib. Deadly suppression of mass demonstrations came a day after President Obama's Mideast policy speech, in which he urged President Bashar al-Assad to "lead that [government] transition, or step out of the way." Assad promised in a Syrian newspaper that the unrest would soon come to an end, but violent clashes have shown no sign of dissipating. So far, hundreds have been killed in the nine-week uprising and thousands more arrested.