Protesters carry a coffin near Homs, Syria 311 (R).
(photo credit: REUTERS/Handout)
BEIRUT - Syrian forces bombarded Homs on Monday, killing 50 people in a
sustained assault on several districts of the city which has become a
center of armed opposition to President Bashar Assad, the Syrian
National Council opposition group said.
The bombardment came a day after
the United States promised harsher sanctions against Damascus in
response to Russian and Chinese vetoes of a draft UN resolution that would have backed an Arab plan urging Assad to step aside.
is the most violent bombardment in recent days," said one activist in
Syria who was in touch with Homs residents. Another activist said forces
loyal to Assad were using multiple rocket launchers in
According to a report by Al Arabiya
Assad's forces employed military helicopters in their shelling of the
city's Baba Amro district, causing the collapse of a number of
buildings. The Arab daily quoted an activist as saying that "seven
residential buildings collapsed as a result of the Syrian intensive
shelling of Homs," adding that the city "is witnessing a real war."
satellite television stations broadcast live footage from Homs.
Explosions could be heard and smoke was seen rising from some buildings.
the attack, an explosion ripped through an oil pipeline feeding a main
refinery in the city of Homs and a plume of smoke was seen rising from
the site, residents and activists said.
The explosion, the second
in a week that hit the pipeline, which carries crude oil from the
eastern Rumailan field, occurred in the district of Bab Amro, they said.
Activists said more than 200 people were killed on Friday
night when tanks and artillery blasted the Khalidiya neighbourhood of
Homs. It was the highest reported death toll in a single day since the
uprising against Assad's rule, inspired by uprisings across the Arab
world, erupted last March.
Damascus denies firing on houses and
says images of dead bodies on the Internet were staged. Reports from
activists and authorities are hard to verify because Syria restricts
access for independent media.
The latest assault, which began
shortly after 2 a.m. (midnight GMT) on Monday, appeared to be more
widely targeted, with explosions in Khalidiya, Baba Amro, Bayada and Bab
Dreib neighbourhoods, the activists said.
"They want to drive
the Free Syrian Army out," said Bab Amro resident Hussein Nader by
telephone, referring to the rebel force of army deserters and gunmen who
have controlled parts of the city for months.
In addition to those killed, 150 people had been wounded, he said. "Rockets are falling seconds apart on the same target."
reported that Syrian army deserters destroyed a military control post overnight, killing three soldiers and capturing 19.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the United States would work
with other nations to try to tighten "regional and national" sanctions
against Assad's government "to dry up the sources of funding and the
arms shipments that are keeping the regime's war machine going".
All 13 other
members of the Security Council voted to back the resolution, which
would have "fully supported" the Arab League plan for Assad to cede
powers to a deputy, a withdrawal of troops from towns and a start to a
transition to democracy.
Western anger at the veto was echoed by
Syria's Middle East critics, including Arab powers Saudi Arabia and
non-Arab Turkey who have turned against Assad in recent months.
yesterday in the UN, the Cold War logic continues," said Turkish
Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. "Russia and China did not vote based
on the existing realities but more a reflexive attitude against the
Arab League head Nabil Elaraby said the body still intends
to build support for its plan. The veto "does not negate that there is
clear international support for the resolutions of the Arab League", he
said in a statement seen by Reuters.