Beirut: Syrian forces shelled a town in the country's restive north and opened fire on scattered protests nationwide,killing at least 32 people on Saturday activists said. Hundreds of Syrians streamed across the border into Turkey,trying to escape the violence.

Hundreds of Syrians streamed across the border into Turkey, trying to escape the violence.

A Syrian opposition figure said on telephone that thousands of protesters overwhelmed security officers and torched the courthouse and police station in the northern town of Maaret al-Numan, and the army responded with tank shells. The man spoke on condition of anonymity because
of the sensitivity of the matter.
   
Syria's state-run television appeared to confirm at least part of the report, saying gunmen opened fire on police stations in Maaret al-Numan, causing casualties among security
officials.
   
The Local Coordination Committees, a group that documents anti-government protests in Syria, said at least 32 people died in protests and army operations, half of them in the northwestern province of Idlib. The group said many of the casualties were in Maaret al-Numan.
   
Twenty-five miles (40 kilometers) to the west in the same province, Syrian troops backed by dozens of tanks massed outside the virtually deserted town of Jisr al-Shughour and shelled nearby villages.Late Friday, Syrian television said troops reached the entrances of the town and detained members of "armed groups."

(Agencies)