3 killed as Syrian army tries to crush dissent near Homs

Death toll in area around central city rises to 14 in last two days; rights groups say 1,000 killed since anti-regime protests began.

By OREN KESSLER, REUTERS
May 30, 2011 18:59
2 minute read.
Video capture taken of protests in Homs, Syria

Syria Protest Homs 311. (photo credit: Reuters)

 
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At least three civilians were killed on Monday when Syrian security forces entered the central town of Talbiseh to crush dissent against President Bashar Assad, a human rights group reported.

The action brought to 14 the number of civilians killed in the area around the city of Homs, north of Damascus, since troops and tanks surrounded towns and villages in the region on Sunday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

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Homs has seen some of the largest demonstrations against Assad since protests broke out in southern Syria in March and spread across the country, posing the most serious threat to his 11-year rule.

Assad’s military clampdown on the protests has drawn condemnation and sanctions from the US and EU. Rights groups say 1,000 civilians have been killed and 10,000 arrested in the crackdown.

Syria blames the violence on armed groups, Islamists and foreign agitators, saying more than 120 police and soldiers have been killed in the unrest.

Talbiseh, 10 kilometers north of Homs, and several other towns and villages nearby, are the latest population centers to be taken over by the army in the military crackdown.

“Shelling began at five in the morning, concentrating on a hill in the middle of the town [of Talbiseh],” said the witness, a resident who managed to leave the town.



He said troops and security forces took over the main clinic, a tactic the military has used when seizing control of other urban centers, and that the wounded were taken to a cultural center for treatment.

Witness reports of violence in Syria, as well as official accounts, are difficult to verify independently because the government barred most international media from the country not long after the start of the unrest in March.

Meanwhile, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah met with Assad to discuss reforms in Syria, according to Al-Akhbar newspaper, a Lebanese daily affiliated with Hezbollah.

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The report published Monday said Nasrallah held several meetings with Assad, but that the Syrian president “did not need encouragement to pursue reforms, as he himself presented many ideas.”

The paper did not describe the reforms in question, but said that in Assad’s view, they go hand in hand with thwarting attempts “by officials and states that want to topple the Syrian regime because of its stance on the resistance” against Israel. He added that those attempts against the government aim to “exhaust it so that it capitulates.”

Anti-government protesters in Syria burned images of Nasrallah this weekend after he gave a speech voicing support for Assad.

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