Carnage in Homs as tanks open fire
Beirut - Amateur video shot by anti-government Syrian activists showed carnage in a Homs city street, and locals said they were afraid to leave their homes on Monday as army tanks appeared to fire machine-guns and mortars into residential areas.
Four bodies of what appeared to be male civilians lay bloodied under fallen power lines in a narrow alleyway of the Bab Amr district, their limbs twisted, heads gashed and brains spilling out.
Baba Amr has been one of the hardest hit areas of Homs, a hotbed of revolt since the government began its crackdown on a nine-month-old protest movement seeking President Bashar al-Assad's removal.
"This is Baba Amr, December 26 2011, and the random shelling is still falling on the neighbourhood," a voice shouted over women's screams. "These are the martyrs thrown in the streets. Allahu akbar [God is great]," the man's voice shouted.
A third day of heavy gunfire in Syria's flashpoint city killed at least 20 people, the day before an Arab League monitoring mission is expected there, activists said.
The people of Homs are awaiting the arrival of the monitors, who are supposed to determine if Assad is keeping his word by withdrawing the army from civilian areas.
"Where are the Arabs? Where is the international community? This is what happened after mortar rockets fell on our neighbourhood," yelled the voice in the video as it panned over a row of crumbling buildings.
"These are the destroyed homes. Allahu akbar, allahu akbar! The martyrs are in the streets! We can't get an ambulance in."
Assad's government says it is battling an insurgency by armed Islamist terrorists.
What began as peaceful protests nine months ago has become increasingly violent as army deserters and armed rebels begin to fight the crackdown and attack security forces.
Residents said they were too terrified to venture outside. One described to Reuters a state of siege.
"They've been doing a few surprise rounds of firing every few hours since early morning," construction worker Tamir told Reuters by telephone. "I don't feel hopeful that the Arab League monitors can do anything, they won't help us at all."
"Every time the firing starts, we run down to the basement and wait for it to stop... I swear to God that we are all cold and hungry here. There's not enough food, there's not enough fuel for heating any more. The area is surrounded by soldiers."
Three other video segments said to have been filmed in Homs on Monday morning showed two tanks facing in opposite directions next to an apartment block. One was firing a heavy weapon, possibly a tank-mounted mortar.
A third tank, its commander standing up in the sand-bagged turret, manoeuvred along the street. There were constant bursts of heavy machine-gun fire and the sound of sniper rifles.
A third video showing a tank recorded a loud explosion, like the sound of its main gun firing. Finally, after a flash and a loud blast, the screen went white.
"If we go out, we have to stay in the alley our house is on. If we move past there we might get shot at," construction worker Tamir said. "Two people in the neighbourhood were just wounded by machine-guns."
"We can't rely on the Arab League. The only one we can turn to is God. We've been bearing this for 10 months and they keep giving the government extensions and now finally they brought monitors and then what? More extensions? Until we all die?"