Assad's forces kill at least 47 in Homs shelling

A day after parlay with Russian FM in which Syrian president claims to want peace, rockets fired into opposition districts.

By REUTERS
February 8, 2012 09:48
2 minute read.
Damaged armored vehicle seen after Homs clashes

Homs after bombardment 390. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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AMMAN - Armored forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad killed at least 47 civilians as they thrust into Homs on Wednesday, firing rockets and mortar rounds to subdue opposition districts, activists said, a day after Russia said Assad wants peace.

Tanks entered the Inshaat neighborhood and moved closer to Bab Amro district in the central Syrian city, which has been the target of the heaviest barrages by loyalist troops that have killed at least 150 people in the last two day, activists in the city and opposition sources said.

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"Electricity returned briefly and we were able to contact various neighborhoods because activists there managed to recharge their phones. We counted 47 killed since midnight," activist Mohammad Hassan said by satellite phone.

Hassan said bombardment intensified in the early morning, concentrating on Bab Amro, al-Bayada, al-Khalidiya and Wadi al-Arab -- Sunni Muslim neighborhoods in the mixed city that have risen up against the 11 year rule of Assad, from Syria's minority Alawite community, which has dominated the majority Sunni country for the last five decades.

"Mortar and rocket fires have subsided, but heavy machine guns and anti-aircraft guns are still strong...tanks are in main thoroughfares in the city and appear poised to push deep into residential areas," he added.

The attacks on Homs continued despite Russia winning a promise from Assad to bring an end to bloodshed, while Western and Arab states acted to further isolate Assad following the onslaught on the city, one of the bloodiest of the 11-month uprising.

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The reports could not be independently verified because Syrian authorities have placed tight restrictions on access to the country by Western media.

The official state news agency said "armed terrorist groups" attacked police roadblocks in Homs and fired mortar bombs at the city, with three falling on the Homs oil refinery, one of two in the country. It gave no details of any damage.

"Assad is seeing the civilized world turn against him and he thinks he will win if he uses more brutal force before the world could act," said Catherine al-Talli, senior member of the opposition National Council.

The attack on Homs has intensified Western and regional diplomatic pressure on Assad, who was training as an ophthalmologist in London before his father, the late President Hafez al-Assad, anointed him as his successor when another brother who was being groomed for president died.

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