The Syrian army pressed its assault on rebels in commercial capital Aleppo yesterday, while both sides reported atrocities, Arab foreign ministers postponed a planned meeting on the 17-month conflict and the US and Turkey weighed imposing no-fly zones to aid rebels.
The exiled opposition said that pro-government militia had summarily executed 10 civilians in a round-up in the flashpoint city of Homs, while the official SANA news agency reported the murder of one of its staff, the latest in a series pro-government journalists to be killed.
The Arab League gave no reason for the indefinite postponement of its planned meeting in Saudi Arabia that had been due to discuss a replacement for international envoy Kofi Annan, who announced his resignation earlier this month.
In Aleppo, troops shelled rebel-held districts as fighting flared anew around a southwestern neighborhood that rebel fighters had quit last week, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said
The Shaar, Tariq al-Bab, Sakhur, Hanano and Bustan al-Qasr neighborhoods all came under bombardment, as the army pressed a ground offensive it launched on Wednesday to recapture areas seized by rebels since July 20, the Britain-based watchdog said.
In the capital, Damascus, gunfire was reported in the Qadam neighborhood.
Outside the capital, machinegun fire was heard in the town of al-Tal, where 15 civilians were killed in shelling and clashes on Saturday.
They were among 148 people killed across Syria on Saturday — 85 civilians, 20 rebels and 43 soldiers, the observatory said.
The opposition Syrian National Council and activist groups said that the 10 civilians were executed in a round-up of military-aged men in the Shamas district of Homs.
“The fate of the nearly 340 others is unknown and we fear greatly that they have met the same fate as the 10 martyrs,” the group said.
Meanwhile, the US and Turkey are looking at all measures to help Syrian rebel forces fighting to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, including a no-fly zone, as the conflict there deepens, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said on Saturday.
Clinton told reporters after talks with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu that their countries needed to get into detailed operational planning on how to assist the rebels and bring a halt to the violence.
Overnight on Saturday, Syrian and Jordanian forces clashed along the border in an incident that highlighted international concerns that the civil war in Syria could ignite a wider regional conflict. The clashes also emphasized the urgent need for planning on what could follow al-Assad’s fall.
“Our intelligence services, our military have very important responsibilities and roles to play so we are going to be setting up a working group to do exactly that,” Clinton said.
Asked if such discussions included options such as imposing a no-fly zone over territory that Syrian rebels claim to control, Clinton indicated that was a possible option.
“The issues you posed within your question are exactly the ones the minister and I agreed need greater in-depth analysis,” Clinton said.
The imposition of no-fly zones by foreign powers was crucial in helping Libyan rebels overthrow Muammar Qaddafi last year, but until recently, the US and its allies have been reluctant to take on an overt military role.