Syrian forces raided the hotbed city of Banias Saturday and killed at least three protesters, activists said as President Bashar al-Assad's opponents proposed he offer elections to end the crisis.
Activists spoke of dozens of tanks and armoured vehicles entering Banias, on the northwestern Mediterranean coast, from three directions as electricity and communications were cut. Tanks also encircled the nearby town of Baida.
The rights activists said residents of Banias formed human chains in a desperate bid to halt the military operation when it began around dawn.
Heavy gunfire was heard in Banias's south, a seaside sector of the city where most of the protesters live, while navy boats patrolled offshore, the activists said.
A human rights activist said later security forces killed three women who were among around 150 people demonstrating on a road outside Banias on Saturday calling for the release of people who had been arrested.
"Members of the security forces asked them to leave and, when they refused to do so, they opened fire killing three of them and wounding five others," the activist said. The military confirmed it conducted an operation in Banias.