TUNIS - Foreign powers are turning a blind eye to weapons purchases by Syrian exiles who are already smuggling light arms, communications equipment and night vision goggles to rebels inside Syria, a Syrian opposition source said on Friday.
Syrian opposition supporters were also trying to bring anti-aircraft and anti-tank weapons to the Free Syrian Army rebels, and to get retired Syrian officers into the country to help coordinate military opposition to President Bashar Assad.
The source was speaking at a meeting of Western and Arab nations which will demand that, in the absence of international resolve to intervene to end Assad's crackdown, Syria allow aid to be delivered to civilians caught in fighting.
"We are bringing in defensive and offensive weapons... It is coming from everywhere, including Western countries and it is not difficult to get anything through the borders," the source told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.
"There is not a decision by any country to arm the rebels but countries are allowing Syrians to buy weapons and send them into the country."
Foreign ministers from more than 50 countries were in Tunis for the first meeting of the "Friends of Syria" group, against the backdrop of a surge in government attacks on the city of Homs and mounting world outrage over violence that has claimed thousands of lives during the uprising.
Qatar's Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani said an Arab force should be created to impose peace and open humanitarian corridors in Syria, while Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby urged the UN Security Council to appeal for a ceasefire.
In Homs, Syrian government artillery fire killed five people in the city's Baba Amro district, opposition activists said, as the bombardment of opposition-held neighborhood entered its fourth week on Friday.
"Baba Amro is being hit with 122mm artillery directed at it from surrounding villages. A father and his 14-year-old son were among those killed. They were trying to flee the shelling when shrapnel hit them in the street," Mohammad al-Homsi said.
Activists said Syrian security forces also lined up and shot dead at least 18 people in a village in the central western Hama province. A video uploaded by activists showed people wrapping the bloodied bodies of children and at least four adults. Several had been shot through the head.