Syria continues rebel bombardment

 

Syrian troops have clashed with army defectors and shelled rebel districts in Homs, killing at least 11 civilians a day after the government claimed it had begun a withdrawal ahead of the deadline for an international truce plan.

Activists said the latest deaths included a man and his son who died in gunfire during fighting in the Qusour district of Homs. They said the renewed violence proved president Bashar Assad's regime was not serious about implementing the cease-fire brokered by former UN chief Kofi Annan.

Russia, a key ally of Assad, warned other nations not to arm the Syrian opposition, saying it would only escalate hostilities. Saudi Arabia and Qatar, two Sunni-ruled nations, have backed the idea of arming the rebels fighting government forces, but the West remains opposed. Western nations however did create a multimillion dollar fund for the opposition at a meeting in Istanbul.

"Even if they arm the Syrian opposition to the teeth, it won't be able to defeat the Syrian army," Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said. "The carnage will go on for many years."

Assad agreed earlier this week to an April 10 deadline to implement the plan put forward by international envoy Kofi Annan. It requires regime forces to withdraw from towns and cities and observe a cease-fire. Rebel fighters are to immediately follow by ceasing violence.

Opposition activists said that the regime was racing to crush opponents ahead of the cease-fire deadline by carrying out intense raids, arrests and shelling.

In the Damascus suburb of Douma, activist Mohammed Saeed said troops carried out more raids and arrests. He said tanks and checkpoints remained in place and reported overnight clashes in the suburb of Kisweh and Moaddamiyeh.

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