Syrian security forces fired on anti-government protests Friday, killing at least 20 people, activists said. The bloodshed came as Human Rights Watch accused Bashar Assad's regime of possible crimes against humanity in the crackdown that has killed at least 3,500 since mid-March, the AP reported.
In addition to ongoing military operations in the flashpoint city of Homs, activists said fierce clashes were taking place Friday in the northern town of Khan Shaikhoun near the Turkish border between the military and army defectors.
Human Rights Watch said Syrian forces have tortured and killed civilians in Homs province. "Homs is a microcosm of the Syrian government's brutality," said Whitson.
In a 63-page report released Friday, Human Rights Watch said security forces killed at least 587 civilians in Homs from mid-April to the end of August — the highest number for any single province.
"Violence by protesters or defectors deserves further investigation," the report said. "However, these incidents by no means justify the disproportionate and systematic use of lethal force against demonstrators, which clearly exceeded any justifiable response to any threat presented by overwhelmingly unarmed crowds."