Dec. 21 - Tens of thousands gather in Damascus to show support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (Rough cut - no reporter narration)
ROUGH CUT - NO REPORTER NARRATION Tens of thousands of supporters of President Bashar al-Assad demonstrate in the Syrian capital as popular unrest continued to sweep through the nation. Waving Syrian flags and portraits of al-Assad, the demonstrators swarmed into the streets of Damascus in a strong show of support for the Syrian president. Syrian forces killed at least 56 people in the past 24 hours in the province of Idlib in violence raging ahead of the start of a mission to monitor al-Assad's implementation of an Arab League peace plan, activists said on Wednesday. The escalating death toll in nine months of popular unrest has raised the spectre of civil war in Syria with Assad still trying to stamp out protests with troops and tanks despite international sanctions imposed to push him onto a reform path.