Syrian army steps up shelling of rebel-held areas of Homs

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The Independent Online

At least 11 people were killed and dozens wounded as the Syrian army intensified its shelling of Sunni Muslim districts of Homs, a day after United Nations observers suspended their work.

"Around 85 per cent of Homs is now under shelling or bombardment with mortar rounds and heavy machine guns," said Abu Imad, an opposition campaigner. "Dozens of wounded are without treatment because all the hospitals have fallen under the control of shabbiha. The dead are the lucky ones," he said, referring to the militia , known as shabbiha , or ghosts, loyal to President Bashar al-Assad.

Opposition sources said shelling was heaviest on the main residential areas of Old Homs, al-Khalidiya, Jourat al-Shayyah, Qarabis and al-Bayyada, where Free Syrian Army rebels were holed up with the remaining civilians.

"We can no longer talk about any real fighting in Homs because the army has cut districts from each other and is systematically gutting neighbourhood by neighbourhood with artillery," activist Mohammad al-Homsi said. "Since the observers stopped working yesterday we have seen a clear escalation."

On Saturday, the UN's chief monitor, Gen Robert Mood, said that increased violence had forced his team to suspend operations, the clearest sign yet that a peace plan brokered by Kofi Annan has collapsed.