Syrian government forces have bombarded the city of Homs with artilleryshells and mortars, killing more than 200 people, opposition groups say.
Activists accused the military of massacring women and children in the worst violence in 11 months of unrest.
The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Syrian Local Coordination Committees both said the death toll had exceeded 200 after shelling began late on Friday.
The Syrian National Council, an umbrella group for Syria’s opposition factions, said 260 people had died and accused government forces of “randomly bombing residential areas”.
“The Syrian National Council calls on everyone around the world to speak up and do something to stop the bloodshed of innocent Syrians,” it said in a statement.
Homs was one of the first cities to join anti-Assad protests, and became one of the focal points of dissent after government forces fired on crowds in April last year. Many army defectors have sought refuge in the city.
According to BBC News “Activists said most of the deaths were in the residential area of Khalidiya.
Reports said a hospital had been destroyed in Khalidiya, and residents said more than 30 houses had been wrecked in the barrage.
“We were sitting inside our house when we started hearing the shelling. We felt shells were falling on our heads,” Khalidiya resident Waleed told Reuters news agency.
Video footage emerged on the internet showing several bodies covered in blood with a voiceover saying the bombardment was still going on.
Activists said most of the casualties were in the Khalidiya quarter of Homs, which they said came under massive bombardment by security forces in the middle of the night.
They said victims were still being dug out of the rubble of collapsed buildings. Video posted on the internet showed many bodies sprawled in pools of blood.
The reasons for the sudden reported escalation weren’t immediately clear. Parts of Homs have become virtually no-go areas for government forces, with rebel fighters from the Free Syrian Army well entrenched.
But the reports of a flare-up talked about shelling from fixed positions, rather than an advance by state forces trying to regain control”.
A draft UN resolution is still under discussion, with Russia indicating it is still not happy with the wording.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Saturday that Moscow had tabled amendments for the resolution at the UN.
A vote had been expected to take place later, but Mr Lavrov said it would be a “scandal” to ask the council to vote on the resolution in its current form.
Russia is Syria’s main ally on the council, and has said it will veto any resolution calling on President Bashar al-Assad to stand down.
(www.sunni-news.net / 05.02.2012)