Damascus: Tens of thousands of protesters rallied near Damascus as Syrian security forces killed at least 25 civilians nationwide and peace monitors spread out to areas hit by unrelenting violence.
   
Some 30,000 people gathered in a square outside the Grand Mosque in Douma just north of the capital, prompting security forces to pull back from previously held positions, the Syrian
Observatory for Human Rights said.
   
Earlier, as Arab League observers arrived at Douma city hall, security forces opened fire on protesters outside the mosque, killing at least four and wounding several others, the rights group said.
   
The observers, on the third day of a mission aimed at halting the bloodshed in Syria yesterday, also visited the central city of Hama, Idlib in the northwest, and Daraa in the south, according to Syrian television.
   
SANA, the official news agency, said observers visited the Baba Amro neighbourhood of Homs, Harasta city, Daraa and Hama provinces "and met a number of citizens."
   
Daraa is the cradle of the unprecedented nine-month protest movement against President Bashar al-Assad's regime, which has ruled Syria with an iron fist for 11 years.
   
According to UN estimates announced in early December, more than 5,000 people have been killed in the Syrian government crackdown on dissent since mid-March.
   
Activists say that more than 70 civilians have been killed by security forces since a first group of monitors arrived on Monday in Syria on a month-long renewable mission to implement an Arab League peace plan.

(Agencies)