More than 80 people were killed in Syria on Thursday, most of them in a relentless blitz on the city of Homs, an attack US President Barack Obama decried as “outrageous bloodshed.”
Shelling erupted at daybreak, killing more than 50 civilians in the besieged central city and burning several bodies beyond recognition, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
At least 83 people were killed across the country on Thursday, the Observatory said.
Troops trying to crush opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have killed at least 400 people in a six-day onslaught on Homs, opposition activists say.
“The shells are raining down on us and regime forces are using heavy artillery,” said Ali Hazuri, a doctor in the Baba Amr district reached by telephone from Beirut.
Omar Shaker, an activist in Baba Amr also reached by telephone, said residents were hiding on ground floors as there were no underground shelters.
“When you venture outside, you can see craters every 10m,” he said.
Obama, in comments after White House talks with Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti, condemned “the outrageous bloodshed that we’ve seen,” and urged “a transition from the current government that has been assaulting its people.”
British Prime Minister David Cameron said al-Assad’s regime appeared determined to kill its own people.
“It’s quite clear that this is a regime that is hell-bent on killing, murdering and maiming its own citizens,” Cameron told reporters in Stockholm. “It really is appalling, the scenes of destruction in Homs.”
He called for “transition and change in Syria.”
British Foreign Secretary William Hague stressed that they had no plans to help arm Syria’s opposition.
However, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on Thursday during a visit to Washington that the international community cannot afford to watch the “massacre” taking place in Syria without acting.
Davutoglu is urging an international conference to resolve violence that erupted when demonstrators began demanding last spring that al-Assad be removed from office.
Meanwhile, Germany backed a proposed joint Arab League-UN mission to monitor the Syrian government’s deadly crackdown on protests, but other major powers were more cautious.
Prospects for the mission that the Arab League chief has proposed to UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon could depend on an Arab League foreign ministers’ meeting this weekend and the backing of the major powers.
As the international community struggles to find a new diplomatic response to al-Assad’s assault on protest cities, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle gave the strongest welcome to the Arab League-UN proposal.
“In addition to the establishment of a contact group of ‘friends of a democratic Syria’ we must also undertake a new attempt to resolve the crisis through the United Nations,” Westerwelle said in Berlin.