Arab League plan fails to calm Syria violence

At least three killed in Homs by security forces; follows previous day's violence that left at least 22 dead in Bab Amro district.

Syrian Tank 311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Syrian Tank 311
(photo credit: REUTERS)
AMMAN - Syrian tank fire killed at least three people in the city of Homs early on Friday as security forces pursued a violent crackdown on protesters despite a government agreement with the Arab League to stop shooting and talk to its opponents.
The latest deaths followed a bloody day in Homs, where activists said at least 22 people were killed as tanks shelled the Bab Amro district and troops and snipers fired elsewhere in the city, a hotbed of protests and an emerging insurgency.
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There was no independent confirmation of the killings.
The state news agency SANA headlined its report on Homs: "Homs residents condemn the armed terrorists' acts and stress their ties to foreign agendas targeting Syria's stability."
It quoted a woman named Ikhlas Ashour as saying gunmen had hijacked the shared taxi she had taken in Homs and after a short drive forced the passengers out, robbed them of their money and identity cards and killed all the men.
Another resident, Ghayath Darwish, told SANA he and his father had been in a shared taxi in the city's Jab Abbas district when armed men intercepted it and killed some male passengers at random, "dragging away their corpses."
SANA also said that 13 soldiers killed by "armed gangs" in Homs, the city of Hama and the northwestern province of Idlib were returned to their families for burial on Thursday.
The security forces do not appear to have changed course despite Syria's acceptance on Wednesday of the Arab proposals for an army withdrawal from cities, the release of political prisoners and talks with the opposition.
"We have already seen the regime's bloody response to the Arab initiative today in the form of intensified shelling on Homs," Ahmad Ramadan, spokesman for the opposition Syrian National Council, said on Thursday.
"If its forces keep firing on protesters, Arab states may be forced to take a more decisive position and support the case for international protection for civilians."