The violence continued in Syria Friday, with at least eight more protesters killed by security forces, bringing the total killed by the regime to at least 56 since Tuesday.
Human-rights activists said 15 security buses carrying gunmen dressed in plain clothes surrounded virtually every mosque in Hama Friday, firing into the air and toward the entrances. Dissidents said 40,000 people demonstrated in and around the city.
Security forces roamed the streets before Friday's noon prayers and started shooting at protesters as soon as they began assembling, a resident of Homs, Syria's third-largest city, told the New York Times.
Syrian dissidents are urging the United States to put pressure on those who are not part of President Bashar al-Assad's regime. The message that should be "hammered on to the Sunni business elite," said Ausama Monajed, head of a London-based research group, is that there is "huge, huge potential for business in Syria" after Assad is driven from power.
These businessmen should be told they "need to play a role in the development and economic development of Syria afterward, so disassociate yourselves from the regime, and there is a future for you," Monajed said.
It is important that President Obama expressly call on Assad to leave office, said Radwan Ziadeh, head of the Damascus Center for Human Rights Studies. Seeing that "will encourage more army - especially more Alawite senior army officers - to defect."
The Obama administration has refused to take this step.
On Friday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called on other countries to stop making weapons and energy deals with Assad.
"We urge those countries still buying Syrian oil and gas, those countries still sending Assad weapons, those countries whose political and economic support give him comfort in his brutality, to get on the right side of history," Clinton said.
Although she did not single out any specific country during her press conference on Friday, she mentioned Russia, China and India in an interview with CBS News that aired Thursday. "We want to see China take steps with us," she said. We want to see India [taking steps], because China and India have large energy investments inside of Syria. We want to see Russia cease selling arms to the Assad regime."
Alluding to recent criticism and condemnations of Assad from organizations including the United Nations and the Arab League, Clinton said U.S. diplomatic work "is paying off."
Read more about the situation in Syria here.