'Syrian security forces kill 3 protesters in Homs'

Witnesses report renewed violence in central city; Syrian families flee village of Tal Kalakh to Lebanon after homes reportedly attacked.

Syria Banias Protest 311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Syria Banias Protest 311
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Three people were killed on Saturday when Syrian security forces opened fire on anti-government protesters in the central city of Homs, according to eyewitnesses. Several other protesters were injured during the clashes.
Also on Saturday, more than twelve Syrian families fled their homes and travelled to Lebanon's border town of Wadi Khaled, after the Syrian army reportedly started shelling their southern village of Tal Kalakh, Israel Radio reported. The fleeing Syrians, some of who were reportedly injured, told residents in Wadi Khaled that the security forces began attacking the village early Saturday.
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On Friday, security forces killed six people in demonstrations across the country. The renewed violence comes after the government promised to hold a "national dialogue" in the coming days.
The Syrian leadership has drawn increasing international criticism and modest sanctions over its military crackdown on two months of pro-democracy unrest in which rights groups say about 700 people have been killed by security forces.
Friday's killings occurred in the southern city of Deraa, cradle of the two-month-old revolt against President Bashar Assad, the Damascus suburb of Qaboun and the central city of Homs, rights campaigner Razan Zaitouna said.
Another rights campaigner said security police fired at a night demonstration in the eastern town of Mayadeen, injuring four people.
He said a security clampdown had intensified in recent days in a tribal area near the border with Iraq, where most of Syria's output of 380,000 barrels of oil per day are produced.
But the bloodshed and death toll after Friday prayers was less than on previous occasions. There were fewer clashes and the numbers of protesters were lower in areas where Assad dispatched troops and tanks to stamp out rallies.
One rights activist said he had been told by a senior Assad adviser, Bouthaina Shaaban, that the president had ordered troops and police not to fire on demonstrators.
 Security forces backed off from confronting a large demonstration on Friday in Rastan near the central city of Homs, a witness said.
"There are signs that Assad may be changing tactics, possibly in reaction to international pressure," a senior Western diplomat told Reuters. "There were less shootings, but the fact that people came out today to protest with the heavy security deployment is remarkable."
Before Friday's killings, Information Minister Adnan Hasan Mahmoud said in televised remarks that Assad would hold a "national dialogue in all provinces ... (in) the coming days."