Dozens More Die In Syrian Violence, Activists Say

by
jonson
The embattled Syrian city of Homs remained under siege for a sixth day Thursday with sporadic tank shells ripping into contested neighborhoods, residents throughout the city cowering in their homes and medical supplies dwindling.

Mourners carried a body during a funeral for a ten-year-old boy and rebel fighters killed during fighting in Idlib, Syria, on Thursday. By NEIL MacFARQUHA

The embattled Syrian city of Homs remained under siege for a sixth day Thursday with sporadic tank shells ripping into contested neighborhoods, residents throughout the city cowering in their homes and medical supplies dwindling.

“Nobody dares venture into the streets,” said a 65-year-old resident named Mohamed, who said he could hear the blast of tank shells and the rat-tat-tat of machine guns clearly even though his home lies distant from the worst fighting.

A constant stream of videos, said to be from Homs and posted on You Tube, left a grim impression of streets cluttered with rubble from damaged buildings, houses collapsed on their owners and a constant flow of victims being treated in makeshift medical clinics. The pictures, although hard to verify independently, showed clouds of black smoke cloaking nearly deserted streets.

Under such extreme conditions, with bodies believed trapped under the rubble, estimates of the death toll by activist organizations ranged widely, from about 50 to more than twice that.

Reaching Homs by telephone proved difficult Thursday, although cell phone service partially returned in the early evening. Much of the attention was focused on the neighborhood of Bab Amr, which has a strong contingent of anti-government activists, but it was hardly alone.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, based in Britain, put the death toll in Homs at 52, with 20 more killed elsewhere throughout Syria. But it noted that communication with Homs was particularly difficult.

The Local Coordinating Committees in Syria, a coalition of activists who help organize and document protests, put the toll in Homs at 110, with about another 20 killed elsewhere in Syria.

Activists have reported hundreds of deaths since the government began renewed assaults hours before Russia and China vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution aimed at easing the crisis on Saturday. There has been no independent confirmation of the death toll.

Russia, under intense criticism for its veto, then tried to defuse the situation by sending its foreign minister to Damascus this week.

The minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, met on Tuesday with President Bashar al-Assad and said he had received assurances that Mr. Assad would open talks with the opposition. Mr. Lavrov did not, however, address the fractured nature of the opposition or suggest that Mr. Assad would halt assaults on civilians before any talks began.

In a sign of the deepening disarray among foreign powers over how to deal with Syria, Britain and France noted on Wednesday that Mr. Assad had previously promised numerous visiting government leaders that he would end the violence.

“I think we have very little confidence in that,” Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain said when asked about Syrian promises to Russia, adding that by vetoing the Security Council resolution, Russia and China had “set themselves against Arab opinion and world opinion.”