Syrian city of Homs flattened

Filed on June 18, 2012
Syrian city of Homs flattened

Troops pounded besieged districts of the flashpoint city of Homs as 15 people were killed in violence across Syria on Sunday, taking the weekend death toll to 84, a watchdog said.

A civilian was killed in the rebel stronghold of Khalidiyeh, which, like other parts of the central city, was “being shelled since this morning and shot at by regime forces who have been trying to take control of these districts”, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

A rebel fighter was killed in a clash with regime troops in the Karm Shamsham neighbourhood of Homs, while another man was shot dead by a sniper in the Old City.

The opposition Syrian National Council (SNC) issued a cry for help on Sunday to save Homs and other cities from attacks by President Bashar Al Assad’s regime, and repeated its call for UN intervention. “The country is under a violent attack, especially Homs,” said Abdel Basset Sayda, the leader of the SNC. “This criminal regime is still trying to commit atrocities” in Homs and elsewhere, including the central town of Rastan and the northern city of Aleppo, he told journalists.

SNC spokeswoman Bassma Kodmani said the situation there was growing increasingly desperate. “The city is left with no food, no electricity, no water, no communications,” she told journalists. Other towns, including Rastan, “are living through tragic hours and days. We are calling for immediate humanitarian intervention in favour of the people of Syria”, she added.

Sayda and Kodmani both repeated the SNC’s call for the United Nations to pressure Assad’s regime using Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which allows measures to be imposed on a country under penalty of sanctions or force.

“The next step needs to be a resolution under Chapter VII, which allows for the use of all legitimate means, coercive means, embargo on arms, as well as the use of force to oblige the regime to comply,” Kodmani said. But she added that peacekeepers could only be sent into Syria with the regime’s blessing, in accordance with the UN’s own rules.

Speaking via Skype from the Old City neighbourhood, activist Abu Bilal said the regime siege of several parts of the city was “suffocating”. “They are shelling us all the time. There’s very little food and water, and we’re running out of medication.”

Video posted on YouTube by activists showed clouds of black and grey smoke rising over buildings in the Old City, as the sound of shelling and shooting ripped through the silence of what appeared to be a ghost town.

Abu Bilal, reiterated warnings by the opposition and rights watchdogs, said people trapped in the city “will be massacred” if regime forces enter the encircled districts.

Amateur video posted on YouTube by anti-regime activists in the surrounded Homs district of Jourat Al Shiah showed widespread destruction, deserted streets and parts of a building shelled and on fire.

“We don’t have any milk for the children, nor water, nor electricity,” a woman whose house was destroyed tells the unidentified cameraman.

“We are not scared. We don’t want weapons or money. We just want a way to get our children out of here,” says the mother of two.

The Observatory has said that more than 1,000 families were trapped in Homs, adding that there was a lack of medical staff and equipment.

Home to several rebel hideouts, Homs has been under intermittent attack by regime forces ever since its Baba Amr neighbourhood was relentlessly pounded for a month earlier this year and retaken by the regime.

Elsewhere in the country, a civilian was shot dead by a sniper at Khan Sheikhun in the northwestern province of Idlib, the Observatory said.

Regime forces, meanwhile, shelled the village of Abyan in the northern province of Aleppo, killing a man, while another man died in the town of Andan.

Regime forces have been trying to take over Andan from rebel fighters, who are in turn “resisting fiercely”, the Observatory said.

Violence also hit other areas of Syria, including the eastern province of Deir Ezzor, where clashes between regime troops and rebels killed two people, one of them a rebel fighter, the Observatory said.

In the central province of Hama — one of the first to rise up against the regime — at least three regime troops were killed in fighting on Sunday morning, the watchdog said.

In Damascus, a young man was shot dead while another was gunned down in the suburbs of the capital, it added.

Regime forces also shelled the rebel bastion of Douma, on the outskirts of the capital, for the fourth day in a row, killing a man while another was shot dead by a sniper in the same area, it said.

Sixty-nine people were killed across the country on Saturday — 51 civilians, 16 troops and two rebels — according to the Observatory which says more than 14,400 people have died in the 15-month uprising. —

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