Syria steps up bombardment of Homs

 

Syrian forces fired mortars and rockets that killed scores of people in the rebellious city of Homs, activists said, the latest strike in a week-long assault as President Bashar Assad's regime tries to crush increasingly militarized pockets of dissent.

During lulls in the onslaught, Syrians used loudspeakers to call for blood donations and medical supplies.

"There is medicine in the pharmacies, but getting it to the field clinics is very difficult, they can't get the medicine to the wounded," Mohammed Saleh, a Syria-based activist, told The Associated Press by telephone.

As the violence grinds on, the international community is searching for new diplomatic approaches to stop the protracted bloodshed in Syria.

The regime's crackdown on dissent has left it almost completely isolated internationally, but Assad is receiving political backing from Russia and China, which delivered a double veto over the weekend that blocked a UN resolution calling on him to leave power.

Sanctions are crippling the Syrian economy, but they have failed to stop military offensives that have led to an overall death toll of more than 5,400 people since March.

A senior Arab League official said today that the Cairo-based organization will discuss at a meeting Sunday whether to recognize the opposition Syrian National Council as the legitimate representative of Syria and whether to allow it to open offices in Arab capitals. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because no decision has been made on the issue.

Libya joined the United States and a growing number of Arab and European countries in reducing diplomatic ties with the Syrian regime. The Libyan government gave Syria's top envoy to the country and embassy staff 72 hours to leave on Thursday in protest against the crackdown, said Libya's Foreign Ministry press officer, Saad Elshlmani.

Homs, Syria's third-largest city, has become the focus of both resistance and reprisal in the 11-month uprising as many areas have fallen under the control of increasingly bold army defectors who want to bring down the regime by force.

In the latest operation, which began Saturday, government forces have unleashed a relentless offensive against Homs, shelling residential areas as they try to root out any resistance and retake control of the city of 1 million people.

Hundreds are believed to have been killed in the heaviest bombardment the city has seen since the country's uprising began in March, activists said.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the LCC were trying to compile numbers and names of those killed Thursday. The Local Coordination Committees, an activist group, said an estimated 90 people were killed in Homs, but the death toll was impossible to independently verify. Activists also reported violence in Zabadani and Daraa.

Also Thursday, Germany expelled four Syrian diplomats following the arrest earlier this week of two men accused of spying on Syrian opposition groups in the country.

Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said he ordered the expulsions of the four Syrian Embassy employees and the ambassador had been informed. He did not give details on the diplomats.

German federal prosecutors said Tuesday they had arrested a Syrian and a German-Lebanese dual national on suspicion that they spied on Syrian opposition supporters in Germany over several years.

The uprising began with mostly peaceful protest but has transformed into an armed insurgency against Assad in many areas, raising fears the country is spiraling toward a full-fledged civil war.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Wednesday the head of the Arab League plans to send observers back into Syria and has raised the possibility of a joint mission with the United Nations.

The UN chief provided no specifics, but the idea appears aimed at giving the regional group a boost after the league's earlier mission was pulled out of the country because of security concerns.

"In the coming days we will further consult with the council before fleshing out details," Ban said. "We stand ready to assist in any way that will contribute toward improvement on the ground."

Ban also reiterated his "deep regret" over the council's inability to speak in one voice to stop the bloodshed. Russia and China used their veto powers on Saturday to block a Security Council resolution backing an Arab League peace plan that calls for Assad to step aside.

Ban said the lack of council unity has encouraged the Syrian government to step up its attacks on civilians.

"Thousands have been killed in cold blood, shredding President Assad's claims to speak for the Syrian people," Ban said. "I fear that the appalling brutality we are witnessing in Homs, with heavy weapons firing into civilian neighborhoods, is a grim harbinger of worse to come."

China, meanwhile, said a Syrian opposition delegation visited Beijing and met Vice Foreign Minister Zhai Jun as the country insisted it wants to maintain contacts and communication with Syrian opposition groups.


AP

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Environment
The plant ‘Nepenthes zygon’ was donated to Kew in 2004
environment
Arts and Entertainment
booksPhotographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years - but he says it wasn’t all fun and games...
News
i100
Sport
Aguero - who single-handedly has kept City's Champions League dreams alive - celebrates his dramatic late winner
footballManchester City 3 Bayern Munich 2: Argentine's late hat-rick sees home side snatch vital victory
News
Muhammad Ali pictured in better health in 2006
peopleBut he has enjoyed publicity from his alleged near-death experience
Arts and Entertainment
Tony breaks into Ian Garrett's yacht and makes a shocking discovery
TVReview: Revelations continue to make this drama a tough watch
News
news
News
peopleSinger tells The Independent what life is like in rehab in an exclusive video interview
News
The assumption that women are not as competent in leadership positions as men are leads to increased stress in the workplace
science... and it's down to gender stereotypes
Arts and Entertainment
Inner sanctum: Tove Jansson and friends in her studio in 1992
booksWhat was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Singer songwriter Bob Dylan performs on stage
films
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Lawyer - Cheshire

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: CHESHIRE MARKET TOWN - An exciting and rare o...

Austen Lloyd: Residential Property Solicitor - Hampshire

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: NORTH HAMPSHIRE - SENIOR POSITION - An exciti...

Recruitment Genius: Gas Installation Engineer

£29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Gas Installation Engineer is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Technical Surveyor

£28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Domestic Gas Technical Surveyor is req...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital