Cars damaged in Homs 390.
(photo credit: Reuters)
AMMAN/BEIRUT - Syrian government forces attacked opponents of President Bashar Assad on several fronts on Tuesday, sending residents fleeing from one town near the capital and bombarding the city of Homs for an 11th day running, activists said.
Citizens of Homs - Syria's third largest city with one million people - faced a humanitarian crisis. Food and fuel were scarce and most shops shut due to relentless shelling and rocket fire that have trapped people in their homes.
With Assad seemingly oblivious to international condemnation of the tactics employed to crush the uprising against his 11-year rule, Arab countries led by Saudi Arabia pushed for a new resolution at the United Nations supporting their peace plan.
The redoubled diplomatic effort came as the UN human rights chief chastised the Security Council
for failing to act on Syria, saying Assad had been emboldened by its failure to condemn him.
"I am particularly appalled by the ongoing onslaught on Homs ... According to credible accounts, the Syrian army has shelled densely populated neighborhoods of Homs in what appears to be an indiscriminate attack on civilian areas," UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said in a speech to the General Assembly in New York on Monday.
The Russian- and Iranian-backed Assad, whose Alawite-minority family has ruled the mainly Sunni Muslim country for 42 years, is struggling to put down street demonstrations and stop insurgent attacks across the country.
He dismisses his opponents as terrorists backed by enemy nations in a regional power-play and says he will introduce reforms on his own terms.
Conflict flared anew on Tuesday morning in Rankous, a country town near the capital Damascus that was hit by government shelling. Activist Ibn Al-Kalmoun, reached by Skype from Beirut, said phone lines had been cut and many residents had fled.
In Homs, a city in western Syria at the heart of the 11-month-old uprising, the pro-opposition neighborhood of Baba Amro was struck at dawn by the heaviest shelling in five days, the Syria Observatory for Human Rights said.
Activist Hussein Nader said it was not possible to go to the streets to survey the damage or look for casualties.
"They are hitting the same spots several consecutive times, making venturing out there impossible. The shelling was heavy in the morning and now it is one rocket every 15 minutes or so," Hussein said by satellite phone.
Shelling was also reported in the town of Rastan early on Tuesday.
At the United Nations, diplomats said a draft General Assembly resolution which supported an Arab League plan and called for the appointment of a joint UN-Arab League envoy on Syria could be put to a vote on Wednesday or Thursday.
The resolution, seen by Reuters, is similar to a Security Council draft vetoed by Russia and China on Feb. 4 that condemned the Assad government and called on him to step aside.
There are no vetoes in General Assembly votes and its decisions are not legally binding.