Obama decries Syria violence; 37 reportedly killed

Homs bombarded, government forces fire rockets on houses, opposition activists tell Al Jazeera.

By JPOST.COM STAFF, REUTERS
January 17, 2012 23:21
2 minute read.
Syrian anti-Assad protest.

Syrian anti-Assad protest 311 R. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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At least 37 people were shot dead by Syrian security forces Tuesday, Al Jazeera reported, as US President Barack Obama made a fresh call to Syrian President Bashar Assad to step down and end his brutal crackdown on protesters.

According to opposition activists speaking with Al Jazeera, Homs was bombarded Tuesday by government forces firing shells on a number of houses in different neighborhoods.

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One activist told Al Jazeera that Assad's troops used rocket launchers, firing heavily on neighborhoods where demonstrations had broken out.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least eight people died after a roadside bomb went off next to a minibus traveling from Idlib to Aleppo.

Rebels who have occupied a hillside resort in Syria are struggling to withstand army bombardment, which they say is part of a new campaign to crush their strongholds in the ten-month rebellion against Assad.

Five days of tank fire and mortar shells have hit Zabadani, a weekend getaway perched on the mountainous Syrian-Lebanese border just 30 km from the capital Damascus.

Rebels have so far maintained their grip on the town of 40,000, but fear they can't hold out much longer.

"I think we can make it another two or three days, but the army tanks keep advancing and shelling," said a rebel fighter who gave his name as Ahmed. "But we'll fight to the end. I will die before letting them enter our city."

Surrounded by tanks and troops, their weapons and supply lines cut, rebels say they only have machineguns and homemade improvised explosive devices (IEDs) to fight back with.

The UN has said at least 5,000 people, mostly innocent civilians have been killed since mass protests began last March, while Assad's government maintains that more than 2,000 security forces have been killed in the ongoing battles between anti- and pro-government forces.

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Meanwhile, US President Barack Obama on Tuesday condemned as "unacceptable" Syria's continuing crackdown on protesters and repeated his call for President Bashar Assad's government to leave power.

"We're continuing to see unacceptable levels of violence inside that country, and so we will continue to consult very closely with Jordan to create the kind of international pressure and environment that encourages the current Syrian regime to step aside," Obama said after White House talks with Jordan's King Abdullah II.

Abdullah became the first Arab leader to call on Assad to step down when, in November of last year, he said
“I believe, if I were in his shoes, I would step down."

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