Saturday, February 4, 2012
Syrian army stages bloodbath in Homs
More than 200 people were killed in shelling by Syrian forces in the city of Homs, activists said Saturday. Death tolls cited by activists and opposition groups ranged from 217 to 260, making the Homs attack the deadliest so far in Assad's crackdown on protests which erupted 11 months ago.
Residents said Syrian forces began shelling the Khalidiya neighbourhood at around 8 p.m. (6 p.m. British time) Friday using artillery and mortars. They said at least 36 houses were completely destroyed with families inside. Some activists said the violence was triggered by a wave of army defections in Homs, a stronghold of protests and armed insurgents who Assad has vowed to crush.
"The death toll is now at least 217 people killed in Homs, 138 of them killed in the Khalidiya district," Rami Abdulrahman, head of the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told Reuters, citing witnesses.
A Syrian activist said Assad forces bombarded Khalidiya, a key anti-Assad district, to scare other rebel neighbourhoods. "It does not seem that they get it. Even if they kill 10 million of us, the people will not stop until we topple him."
The opposition Syrian National Council said 260 civilians were killed, describing it as "one of the most horrific massacres since the beginning of the uprising in Syria." It added that it believed Assad's forces were preparing for similar attacks around Damascus and in the northern town of Jisr al-Shughour.
Another group, the Local Coordination Committees, gave a death toll of over 200. It is not possible to verify activist or state media reports as Syria restricts independent media access.
As news of the violence spread, a crowd of Syrians stormed the Syrian embassy in Cairo in protest, and rallies broke out outside Syrian missions in Britain, Germany and the United States.