Syrian protesters near Damascus 311 (R).
(photo credit: REUTERS/Handout)
Government tanks pounded neighbourhoods of Homs on Monday, killing more than 30 people, city residents said, as Arab officials arrived in Syria to monitor compliance with a peace plan aimed at ending the crackdown on an uprising against President Bashar Assad.
Fifty monitors and 10 other officials from the Arab League arrived from Egypt on a private plane, the first international intervention on the ground to end nine months of violence between government troops and opponents of Assad.
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monitors are due on Tuesday to visit Homs, scene of the worst violence,
where there has been no sign of Assad carrying out a plan agreed with
the Arab League to halt his offensive.
Amateur video posted on
the Internet by activists showed tanks in the streets next to apartment
blocks in the Baba Amr district. One fired its main gun and another
appeared to launch mortar rounds.
Mangled bodies lay in pools of
blood on a narrow street, the video showed. Power lines had collapsed
and cars were burnt and blasted, as if shelled by tank or mortar rounds.
happening is a slaughter," said Fadi, a resident living near the
flashpoint Baba Amr neighborhood. He said it was being hit with mortar
shells and heavy machinegun fire.
An armed insurgency is
increasingly eclipsing civilian protests in Syria. Now many fear a slide
toward a sectarian war pitting the Sunni Muslim majority, the driving
force of the protest movement, against minorities that have mostly
stayed loyal to the government, particularly the Alawite sect to which
Assad belongs. Fighting in Homs has intensified since a double suicide
bombing in Damascus on Friday that killed 44 people.
defectors were killed by security forces in a town near the Turkish
border on Monday, an activist network said. Nine soldiers killed in
fighting in Homs were buried, state media reported.
Fadi told Reuters via Skype that residents and fighters were trapped by
trenches the army had dug around the neighborhood in recent weeks.
are benefiting from trenches. Neither the people nor the gunmen or army
defectors are able to flee. The army has been descending on the area
for the past two days."
Other residents said the fighters have still been able to inflict casualties on the army.
violence is definitely two-sided," said a Homs resident who gave his
name only as Mohammed to protect his safety. "I've been seeing
ambulances filled with wounded soldiers passing by my window in the past
days. They're getting shot somehow."
Parts of Homs are defended
by the Free Syrian Army, made up of defectors from the regular armed
forces, who say they have tried to protect civilians.
many casualties," activist Yazen Homsi told the Avaaz opposition group
from Homs. "It is very difficult to access them and provide treatment as
a result of the heavy shelling throughout the neighborhood."
British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights documented names of
those reported killed in Monday's clashes. It also reported three people
killed on the outskirts of Hama, north of Homs, as security forces
fired on protests.
It said explosions went off in Douma, a
Damascus suburb, as the army clashed with rebel fighters. In a town near
the Turkish border, four army defectors were killed by security forces,
it Observatory reported.
The Syrian government has banned most access by independent media, making it difficult to verify accounts of events.