小编摘要：Rights groups and activists say at least 70 people were killed in Syria on Friday, after security forces opened fire on anti-government protesters who rallied across the country.
The toll would make Friday the deadliest single day of protests in the country since the anti-government uprising began in March.
Syrian anti-government protesters march during a demonstration following Friday prayers near Damascus, April 22, 2011
Listen to what VOA's Cecily Hilleary and Steve Bangley discovered after talking to Syrian eyewitnesses on the ground involved in the protests in several cities:
Witnesses and activists say security forces used live ammunition and tear gas on protesters, who poured onto the streets after Friday prayers and called for President Bashar al-Assad's immediate departure.
The deaths were reported in areas including the southern Daraa region, the central city of Homs and communities near the capital, Damascus.
The U.S. on Friday urged the Syrian government to "cease and desist" in its use of violence. White House spokesman Jay Carney said the U.S. is calling on Syria to follow through on "promised reforms."
Friday's rallies against President Assad's government came one day after the president signed a decree ending almost 50 years of emergency rule. The decree was part of his effort to end anti-government unrest.
There was no immediate confirmation of the deaths by Syrian authorities. State-run SANA news says police and security forces responded with tear gas and hoses on Friday after "scuffles" erupted between demonstrators and citizens.
A Facebook page calling for people to join the rallies called them the "Good Friday" protests -- a reference to the holy day when Christians believe Christ was crucified and died in Jerusalem. A website image shows Christian and Muslim images together with the words "one heart, one hand, one goal."