Syrian forces killed more than 200 people in an assault on the city of Homs, activists said, the worst day of violence in an 11-month uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, escalating the conflict on the eve of yesterday’s UN vote.
The Arab League, Europe and the US are trying to persuade al-Assad’s veto-wielding ally Russia to let the Security Council pass a resolution backing an Arab call for al-Assad to relinquish power. Moscow said passing the resolution without amendments risked “taking sides in a civil war.”
Death tolls cited by activists and opposition groups ranged from 217 to 260, making the Homs attack the deadliest so far in al-Assad’s crackdown on protests and one of the bloodiest episodes in the “Arab Spring” of revolts that have swept the region.
Residents said Syrian forces began shelling the Khalidiya neighborhood at about 8pm on Friday using artillery and mortars. They said at least 36 houses were completely destroyed with families inside.
“We were sitting inside our house when we started hearing the shelling. We felt shells were falling on our heads,” said Waleed, a resident of Khalidiya.
An activist in Khalidiya said residents were using primitive tools to rescue people. They feared many were buried under rubble.
“We are not getting any help, there are no ambulances or anything. We are removing the people with our own hands,” he said, adding that there were only two field hospitals treating the wounded.
Each one had the capacity to deal with 30 people, but he estimated the total number of wounded at 500.
“We have dug out at least 100 bodies so far, they are placed in the two mosques,” he said.
It is not possible to verify activist or state media reports as Syria restricts independent media access.