Syrian forces kill 40, protesters demand int'l protection

Bloodshed in Hama, Homs; protesters call upon international community to impose no-fly zone; UN says over 3,000 killed in violence since March.

Syrian protesters  (photo credit: Reuters)
Syrian protesters
(photo credit: Reuters)
AMMAN - Security forces killed at least 40 civilians on Friday in attacks on demonstrations calling for international protection for Syria's pro-democracy protesters, activists said.
Most of the killings were in the main cities of Hama, where the security presence has been heavy since a military assault two months ago, and in Homs, where the army and militiamen loyal to President Bashar Assad have been raiding residential districts to put down protests and a nascent armed insurgency.
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"A no-fly zone is a legitimate demand for Homs," read banners carried by protesters in the Khalidiya neighborhood.
NATO jets played a central role in the overthrow of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, but the Western alliance has shown no appetite to intervene in Syria to halt violence which the United Nations says has killed 3,000 people.
Syria's opposition National Council has called for international protection. It has not explicitly requested military intervention, although street protesters have increasingly voiced that demand.
Assad has not used warplanes against protesters and a no-fly zone in itself would have little impact on the crackdown unless - as in the case of Libya - pilots attacked his ground forces and military bases.
The anti-Assad protesters have been energized by Gaddafi's death last week but their numbers are still well below those seen before a military crackdown in several cities in July.
Authorities also organized big pro-Assad demonstrations this week, with tens of thousands rallying in Damascus and the eastern town of Hasaka on Wednesday, and more pouring onto streets of the Mediterranean city of Latakia on Thursday.