Friday, June 14, 2024

Syrian forces pound Homs after dozens killed


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BEIRUT: Syrian tanks pounded an old district in the city of Homs today and three people were killed, activists said, after one of the bloodiest days of the seven-month-old uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.

Activists and residents said Syrian forces shot dead 40 civilians yesterday when they fired on demonstrators calling for international protection from Assad’s crackdown.

One activist group said fierce fighting broke out in Homs yesterday night between dozens of army deserters and forces loyal to Assad. Seventeen soldiers were killed when the defectors attacked two security posts in the city, it said.

The report by the British-based Syrian Organisation for Human Rights highlights the emerging element of armed insurgency alongside mainly peaceful street protests demanding an end to 41 years of Assad family rule.

The United Nations says 3,000 people, including nearly 200 children, have been killed in the unrest. Since the start of protests in March, Syrian authorities have blamed the violence on gunmen they say have killed 1,100 soldiers and police.

Syria has barred most international media, making it hard to verify accounts from activists and authorities.

But the resilience of the protesters, the determination of authorities to crush dissent and the growing ranks of defectors have combined to make Syria’s turmoil one of the most intractable confrontations of this year’s Arab uprisings.

The Syrian Observatory said three civilians were killed in Homs on Saturday morning, one shot by a sniper and two by machinegun fire between Assad’s forces and defectors.

Residents said tanks fired anti-aircraft guns, which the military is using to hit ground targets, as well as machineguns in the old district of Bab Amro. Explosions and gunfire could also be heard in other neighbourhoods, activists said.

Yesterday’s violence prompted Arab ministers to issue their strongest call yet on Assad to end the killing of civilians.

The Arab League’s committee on the Syrian crisis said it had sent an ”urgent message … to the Syrian government expressing its severe discontent over the continued killing of Syrian civilians”.

The committee ”expressed the hope that the Syrian government would take action to protect civilians”. Arab ministers are due to meet Syrian officials on Sunday in Qatar to press for dialogue between the government and opposition. (Reuters)


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