Syrian Troops Storm Latakia, Three Dead
Syrian troops killed at least three people as they pounded Latakia and raided other towns on Saturday, activists said, as Washington and Riyadh demanded that Damascus "immediately" halt its crackdown.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said two people were killed and 15 wounded, four of them critically, during a military operation in the southern Latakia area of Ramleh, a nerve centre of anti-regime protests.
One of the casualties was a 17-year-old man, the Observatory said.
The watchdog said earlier that military vehicles, including tanks and armoured personnel carriers, converged on Ramleh during a "large demonstration calling for the fall of (President Bashar al-) Assad's regime.
The Observatory said the deployment of troops sparked an exodus of residents, especially women and children.
Security forces raided the Asaliba district, also in the Mediterranean city, arresting "more than 70 people" in a door-to-door crackdown, it said, adding that women who resisted the arrest of their children were harassed and beaten.
"There was heavy gunfire and explosions," in Asaliba, the Observatory said.
An activist in the Homs region of central Syria said troops backed by two tanks also entered the village of Jussiyeh which borders Lebanon, triggering a stampede across the frontier and to neighbouring areas.
Military vehicles, meanwhile, swooped on the town of Qusayr, also in Homs province, where security and intelligence services carried out arrests and killed one person, the Observatory said.
"Ten military trucks, seven security vehicles and 15 buses full of pro-regime militiamen entered these villages," said security services.
In the town of Huleh, also in Homs province, families received the corpses of four relatives who had been arrested in the past few days, the Observatory said.
Security forces backed by tanks have been trying to crush dissent city by city and town by town since pro-democracy protests erupted in mid-March.
The Observatory says 2,150 people have been confirmed dead since then -- 1,744 civilians and 406 members of the security forces.
Activists said at least 20 people were killed on Friday when security forces opened fire on thousands of anti-regime protesters who rallied in flashpoint cities after Muslim weekly prayers, updating earlier tolls.
State television, meanwhile, said "two security agents were shot dead by armed men in Douma," a suburb of the capital.
Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) chief Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu on Saturday urged "the Syrian leadership to exercise utmost restraint through immediate cessation of the use of force to suppress people's demonstrations."
Ihsanoglu "expressed the readiness of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation to play a role in this regard, as he believes that dialogue is the only secure option through which this devastating crisis could be contained."
The U.N. Security Council is to hold a special meeting next Thursday to discuss human rights and the humanitarian emergency in Syria, diplomats at the United Nations said.
In a Twitter statement, France's U.N. mission said U.N. Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay and U.N. undersecretary for humanitarian affairs Valerie Amos were to brief the meeting.
As the West grapples with ways to pressure Damascus into ending the bloodshed, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has urged countries to stop trading with Syria.
"We urge those countries still buying Syrian oil and gas, those countries still sending Assad weapons... to get on the right side of history," Clinton told reporters.
France on Saturday followed the example of the United States in advising its citizens in Syria to leave the country.