Attacks by security forces kill 100 in Syria

Rights group reports army raids in northern Idlib province; Syrian army is shelling neighborhood of Homs; 340 reported wounded.

Homs after bombardment 390 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Homs after bombardment 390
(photo credit: REUTERS)
AMMAN - Security forces killed at least 100 people on Tuesday in attacks on the central city of Homs and raids on villages and towns in the province of Idlib near Turkey, the Local Coordination Committees said.
Ten children and three women were among the dead, the opposition activists' organization, which documents what it describes as killings and human rights abuses by security forces, said in a statement.
Earlier, activists reported that Syrian government forces had killed at least 21 people and wounded 340 when they unleashed a heavy artillery barrage on a rebel-held district of the city of Homs, activists said.
"The Free Syrian Army is not letting the army enter Baba Amro. It responded this morning by 130 mm artillery that hit the neighborhood at random," activist Nader al-Husseini told Reuters from the district.
"Several shells are falling each minute," he added.
Two children were among the victims, he said. The report could not be independently confirmed.
Government forces backed by armor and under the control of Alawite officers, from the same minority sect as Syrian President Bashar Assad, have been advancing on Baba Amro, a Muslim Sunni neighborhood, since the offensive on Homs began on Feb 3.
Tanks are now deployed at the Inshaat district opposite Baba Amro, according to opposition sources.
About 60 percent of Baba Amro's 100,000 population are estimated to have fled. The district is connected with several villages that have become part of the urban sprawl around the mixed city of one million, which has a large 30 to 40 percent Alawite minority.
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Earlier Tuesday, Syrian forces opened fire with live ammunition on demonstrators in Damascus, wounding at least four, activists said as unrest continued to spread in the capital.
Demonstrations and clashes with security forces have hit Damascus in the past week, undermining Assad's argument that an 11-month uprising has been the work of saboteurs and limited mainly to the provinces.
International diplomacy showed no sign of finding a solution, as Western powers and the Arab League prepared a meeting of "Friends of Syria" on Friday to pressure Assad to step down, while Russia and China backed Assad's reform plans, derided by Syria's opposition.
"There were hundreds of demonstrators at the main square of Hajar al-Aswad (neighborhood), and suddenly buses of security police and shabbiha (pro-Assad militia) turned up and started firing into the crowd," activist Abu Abdallah told Reuters by telephone.
He said the four wounded were taken to be treated in homes.
Footage posted on YouTube, purportedly taken before the shooting, showed a crowd marching in Hajar al-Aswad carrying placards in support of the besieged city of Homs and singing "Eyes are shedding tears for the martyrs among Syria's youth."
Jublatt slams Assad reforms, allies
Leading Lebanese Druse politician Walid Jumblatt on Tuesday slammed a planned reform program put forward by Assad, saying it does not amount to much change, all-the-while criticizing Syria's allies for supporting his deadly crackdown, Lebanese newspaper the Daily Star reported.
Speaking after a meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in Istanbul, the head of Lebanon's Progressive Socialist Party mocked Syria's reforms that will allow new political parties into the system as an "innovation," noting that the new parties would be similar to the Baath Party.
Jumblatt also called on Syria's allies to help find an exit strategy instead of their current support for his crackdown, which rights groups say has left at least 6,000 dead.
"What a new innovation [it is] to see great powers supporting this so-called theatrical play of a referendum while [those countries] provide military, intelligence and security support for the Syrian regime ... as they repeat their rejection of foreign intervention," he said.