NEW: The Arab League reportedly sends a message to Syria, condemning the violence
Dozens are wounded, 500 arrested in protests, an opposition group says
Terrorists attack the police station in Homs, state media reports
Syrian forces pounded the western city of Homs Saturday with jets and tanks, sustaining fire with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades, activists told CNN.
In a massive demonstration in Hama, Syrians demanded an end to President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, as well as his prosecution, according to the Local Coordination Committees, an opposition group that organizes and documents protests in Syria.
Security forces responded harshly, opposition groups said, putting neighborhoods and mosques in the Salhyeh neighborhood of Damascus under siege, conducting security sweeps and firing on crowds elsewhere in the country.
The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said security forces fatally shot 35 civilians during protests across Syria. At least 100 others were wounded and 500 arrested in several provinces, the opposition group said.
The LCC put the countrywide death toll at 40.
Also Friday, Arab ministers said they sent an urgent message to the Syrian leadership, expressing discontent regarding the continued killing of civilians, MENA, Egypt’s state-run news agency reported.
The Arab League said it expects to meet with Syrian officials Sunday in Doha, where it hopes to help negotiate an end to the crisis, MENA said.
In Homs, snipers fired into crowds in the Jawret Sheyah and Inshaat neighborhoods, according to the LCC.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that security forces clashed with defected soldiers in Hay Al-Siba’a, also in Homs, killing or injuring 40 people from both sides, and destroying two tanks.
In the Barzah neighborhood of Damascus, gunfire accompanied a security operation that resulted in the arrests of more than 40 people, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.
The LCC said communications and electricity had been cut and new security checkpoints erected in the Damascus suburb of Zabadany.
The official state news agency, SANA, said an “armed terrorist group” attacked the police station in Homs. Officers repelled the attack and some of the attackers were wounded, SANA said without offering details.
SANA, citing “an official source,” also reported that a number of law enforcement forces were wounded Friday by gunfire in the central province of Hama. It said “scores of wanted terrorists” had been arrested in Homs.
CNN could not independently confirm the accounts because Syria has not granted international media access to the country.
Syrian opposition groups have been calling on the United Nations to impose a no-fly zone, naval blockade and other measures to protect Syrian protesters since at least early October.
Leaders of the Free Syria Army, a group of armed forces defectors, have been particularly vocal in the call, saying such policies could allow them to establish a base of operations to launch a campaign to bring down al-Assad’s regime.
On October 4, China and Russia vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution that would have called for an immediate halt to the crackdown, which United Nations officials have said has resulted in an estimated 3,000 deaths since protests began.
The calls cited the successful NATO effort to end Libyan government assaults on civilians that resulted in the overthrow and death of longtime leader Moammar Gadhafi. In that case, NATO aircraft attacked government facilities and forces, giving a boost to rebels who eventually took power.
In an opinion article on CNN.com this month, Council for Foreign Relations fellow Micah Zenko said a no-fly zone would be of little aid to protesters in Syria, as the government crackdown has largely been accomplished by troops on the ground. Instead, a Libya-style mission of close air support, or CAS, is what’s needed, he said.
“Neither the Syrian opposition, nor anybody else, has adequately explained how a CAS military mission will be integrated into a broader strategy of either civilian protection or toppling Assad,” he wrote.
CNN’s Roba Alhenawi, Salma Abdelaziz and Nada Husseini contributed to this report.