Syria keeps up assault on rebels despite Arab threat


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The Independent Online

Syrian troops continued a fierce assault on several towns and cities yesterday, defying international condemnation and an increasingly explicit threat that Arab governments could arm resistance forces if the bloodshed does not stop.

At least six people were reported killed in the besieged western city of Homs, where strongholds of opposition to Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad were heavily shelled for the eleventh day running. There was also a flight of residents from Rankous, a rural town near Damascus which came under artillery fire from Syrian troops.

Meanwhile, an unnamed Arab ambassador quoted by Reuters amplified Sunday’s Arab League call for “political and material support” by suggesting that this include possible arms transfers. "We will back the opposition financially and diplomatically in the beginning but if the killing by the regime continues, civilians must be helped to protect themselves,” the ambassador said. “The [League] resolution gives Arab states all options to protect the Syrian people.” 

There have already been reports that weapons are being smuggled into Syria, including from strongly Sunni regions in Iraq. In Homs, where an estimated 400 people have been killed since the regime’s assault began on February 3, Hussein Nader, an activist speaking to Reuters via satellite phone, said: "They are hitting the same spots several consecutive times, making venturing out there impossible. The shelling was heavy in the morning and now it is one rocket every 15 minutes or so. Residents are trapped.”

Mr Nader said that a man who had been in a truck picking wounded people up in the Bab Amr district overnight had sustained severe burns when the vehicle was hit by rocket fire, and was dying and needed hospital treatment.

Another activist in the city, Mohammed Al-Homsi, said there were food and fuel shortages, that prices had tripled, and that regime forces were setting up roadblocks round opposition neighbourhoods. Mohammad al-Mohammad, a doctor at a makeshift Bab Amr hospital appeared in a video with a young man he said had been wounded by sniper fire.

“This is a critical condition that needs transportation to a proper hospital,” he said "We appeal to anyone with conscience to intervene to stop the massacres of Bashar al-Assad and his cohorts."

In New York, diplomats said a non-binding UN General Assembly resolution supporting the dispatch of a joint UN-Arab league envoy to Syria could be voted on today or tomorrow.