Deir el-Zour, Syria - AP - 28.7.11
Syrian pro-government supporters carrying a giant national flag during a rally in the eastern province of Deir el-Zour, Syria, July 28, 2011. Photo by AP
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Activists called Friday for protests across Syria to ask "for foreign protection," a move aimed at putting pressure on President Bashar Assad and his regime which has pressed on with a violent crackdown on dissent.

The call for mass demonstrations was made in a statement on the Facebook page of Syrian Revolution 2011, a motor of the protests which started against the regime in mid-March.

"To the youths of the revolution, Friday we will be in all the places after the [Muslim] prayer, in all the streets," it said. "We will gather at the besieged towns, and call for international protection to protect our civilians."

The looming showdown comes after the Syrian opposition issued for the first time a direct call for foreign intervention.

The Syrian opposition appealed late Thursday to the international community to send in human rights groups to monitor and help deter military attacks on civilians in the increasingly bloody crackdown.

The Activists' Bloc, which groups Syrian opposition forces, updated in a statement the number of civilians killed by government forces and said it had reached more than 3,000 civilians.

"The Syrian regime is ignoring all laws [and] using heavy weapons in its pursuit of repression and killings," it said.

The announcement came as Syrian forces arrested dozens of people in house-to-house raids in areas near the flashpoint city of Homs on Thursday, following military operations that killed at least 34 civilians in the same city on Wednesday.

Syria officials have ignored all calls by the international community to stop its crackdown on protesters and insisted they will continue what they described as a fight against "armed gangs trying to destabilize Syria."

Syria has been rocked since March 15 by pro-democracy demonstrations. The United Nations estimates the clashes to have cost 2,200 lives.