At least 33 people were killed in violence in Syria on Friday, most of them in the restive city of Homs, as Human Rights Watch accused the regime of crimes against humanity.
The Local Coordination Committees said that 33 people were killed at the hands of security forces during Friday’s demonstrations.
The Arab League, meanwhile, prepared for a ministerial meeting on the Syria crisis which, according to the United Nations, has claimed more than 3,500 lives since protests against President Bashar Assad erupted in mid-March.
Ten people were killed in Homs, including a defecting soldier and a 63-year-old man, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said in a statement received in Nicosia.
The deaths in Homs came amid mass anti-regime rallies demanding the Arab League suspend Syria's membership in the pan-Arab body to sanction its brutal, eight-month crackdown on dissent.
Security forces broke up demonstrations in al-Malaab, a main thoroughfare in Homs, but rallies relocated and mushroomed, engulfing eight neighborhoods, including al-Bayada, al-Ghuta and Baba Amr, the Observatory said.
Three people died in Daraa province, cradle of the revolt. They were a man shot by security forces in the town of Busret al-Sham, another man killed in al-Sanmeen, and a 13-year-old boy who died in a bomb blast in Mseifra.
In the northwestern province of Idlib, near Turkey, "security forces shot dead a man in the town of Ariha," where demonstrations erupted after the weekly Muslim midday prayers.
The Observatory also reported "mass protests" in Idlib's Sheikhun in the wake of a "retreat by security forces from government buildings following violent clashes."
In Damascus, security forces deployed on the streets of Barzeh and posted snipers on rooftops, after a wave of arrests and deadly violence shook the capital's neighborhood.
And "security forces unleashed heavy gunfire to disperse demonstrations," in the eastern oil hub of Deir al-Zour.
Friday prayers have become a lightning rod for demonstrations in Syria, which each week adopt a new theme and this week called for the Arab League to suspend Syria's membership.
The League, under international pressure to act after Syria failed to honor a peace plan and instead stepped up its brutal protest crackdown, held talks ahead of a meeting on Saturday to discuss the crisis.
Syria's envoy to the Arab League, Youssef Ahmed, presented early Friday a memorandum in which Damascus expressed its willingness to receive a pan-Arab delegation.
"This will help assess Damascus's commitment to the (Arab) plan and to unveil motives behind certain external and internal parties working for the failure of the Arab blueprint," the official SANA news agency said.
Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch (HRW) in a report accused Syrian government forces of "crimes against humanity" based on the systematic nature of abuses against civilians.
It said protesters were unarmed in most clashes, but that defectors from the security forces had intervened when the demonstrators came under fire from regime troops and militiamen.
Based on the accounts of 110 victims and witnesses, HRW said "violations by the Syrian security forces killed at least 587 civilians" in the central city of Homs and its province between mid-April and the end of August.
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