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Deadly attacks on protests in Yemen, Syria

Security forces struck against unarmed demonstrators urging their leaders' ouster.

CAIRO - Violence shook the Middle East after security forces attacked protesters Friday in Yemen and Syria, leaving at least 46 dead in Yemen and three in Syria, as the region's authoritarian regimes turned to deadly force to stop pro-democracy uprisings.

President Obama condemned the Yemen violence, but his 110-word written statement issued to reporters was milder than the 1,257-word denunciation of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi that he delivered from the White House.

Human-rights advocates decried what they said was a double standard in the treatment of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, a U.S. ally, and Gadhafi, a longtime villain in the West and a pariah in much of the Arab world.

"We're very surprised that the international community is turning away from what's happening in Yemen," said Khaled Ayesh Abdullah, 30, executive manager of the National Forum for Human Rights, a Yemeni nonprofit. "They're leaving us in the line of fire of a criminal."

Friday's crowds were some of the biggest yet in the two-month-long uprisings. Video recorded in southern Syria and Yemen's capital, San'a, showed similar events: security forces attacking unarmed protesters who had staged peaceful gatherings to demand the ouster of their unelected leaders.

Saleh declared a state of emergency after his security forces opened fire on tens of thousands of protesters. TV-news footage of a main hospital showed overwhelmed doctors moving frantically among their dying patients.

"This is really murder!" a doctor yells in one video, gesturing to a writhing, bloodied man. "We are calling on the world to come and see!"

Atiaf al-Wazir, 31, a Yemeni American blogger and activist, said from San'a: "I saw 18 dead bodies, all shot with live ammunition, and I was informed that the injured were taken to five other hospitals around the city because the hospital wasn't big enough to hold all the wounded."

News reports cited medical sources as saying 46 people were killed, including some children, and scores injured.

In Syria, security forces killed three protesters in the southern city of Deraa, according to Reuters, which reported smaller protests in the central city of Homs and the coastal town of Banias. In the old quarter of the capital, Damascus, crowds briefly chanted opposition slogans inside a historic mosque before being surrounded by security forces.

Syria's authoritarian regime has zero tolerance for demonstrations and has jailed prominent dissidents in recent days.

In a symbolic move that infuriated protesters, Bahrain destroyed the landmark pearl monument in the traffic circle in the capital of Manama where demonstrations have erupted for a month.

News reports said soldiers arrived early Friday to demolish the 300-foot monument, which was topped with a massive pearl as a nod to the island-state's pearl-diving heritage. Photos posted online after the destruction showed a pile of debris in place of the monument.

In Sitra, an island south of Manama, thousands attended the funeral of a Shiite protester killed Tuesday by security forces. At least 12 people have been killed and dozens wounded in Bahrain since demonstrations against the ruling al-Khalifa family began.

The sectarian undertones of Bahrain's crisis threaten to inflame Sunni-Shiite tensions in other gulf nations. The Bahraini royal family is Sunni in a majority-Shiite country where Shiites have long complained of discrimination.

Saudi Arabia, another Sunni kingdom wrestling with a seething Shiite population, sent 1,000 troops into Bahrain this week to back up the government. That led thousands of Shiites to demonstrate in Iraq and Iran on Friday in solidarity with the Bahraini protesters.

Saudi King Abdullah, 86, made a rare televised appearance to offer $93 billion in benefits such as salary bonuses and better health care in hopes of quieting the kingdom's own rumbles of rebellion.

Also Friday, thousands crowded into Cairo's Tahrir Square for a rally ahead of Saturday's referendum on constitutional amendments.