Syria armour moves on Homs

2012-02-11 16:15

Damascus - Syrian armour moved on the protest centre of Homs and a general was gunned down in Damascus on Saturday as the bloodshed showed no signs of abating, even spilling over into Lebanon.

The Syrian National Council (SNC) said Arab recognition of the opposition umbrella group was imminent, ahead of key talks in the Egyptian capital on the crisis.

In Aleppo, tensions escalated as President Bashar Assad's forces stepped up security after twin car bombs killed 28 people in Syria's second city on Friday, activists said.

Another four civilians were killed by shelling and heavy machine gun fire in Baba Amr, the main centre of resistance in Homs, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Government forces have been waging a withering assault on the central city that has killed more than 450 people in the past week, rights groups say.

Two civilians died in the southern town of Daraa, cradle of the revolt, and another was killed in the Damascus district of Qabun, the Observatory said, adding three security force members died elsewhere.

A general was gunned down outside his Damascus home, state media said. If confirmed, it would be one of the most brazen attacks on the top brass in the capital since the uprising erupted in March last year.

"An armed terrorist group this morning assassinated brigadier general and doctor, Issa al-Khawli, the director of Hamish hospital, outside his home in the district of Ruknaddin," the official SANA news agency said.

Clashes in Lebanon

In Lebanon, two people died and 18 were wounded in fierce clashes between Sunni Muslims hostile to Syria's regime and Alawites who support it, a security official said.

"A Sunni and an Alawite were killed and 18 people were wounded in clashes that continued since Friday between people from the neighbourhoods of Jabal Mohsen and Bab al-Tebbaneh," in the northern city of Tripoli, he told AFP.

The two sides were firing guns and rocket-propelled grenades at each other in the bloodiest clashes since June, when six people were killed in the wake of demonstrations against Syria's government.

Sunni-majority Tripoli has in the past few years been the scene of intense clashes between Sunni supporters of the anti-Syrian opposition and Alawites loyal to a Hezbollah-led alliance backed by Iran and Syria.

President Assad hails from the Alawite community, an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam.

Syrian state media blamed "terrorists" for Friday's double car bomb attacks on security posts in Aleppo, which killed at least 28 people and wounded 235.

The rebel Free Syrian Army accused the regime of launching the attacks in a bid to divert attention from its bloody nationwide crackdown.

"This criminal regime is... carrying out bomb attacks in Aleppo to steer attention away from what it is doing in Homs, Zabadani and elsewhere," rebel spokesperson, Colonel Maher Nouaimi, told AFP.

A report citing unnamed US officials said the bombings were likely to have been carried out by the Iraqi branch of al-Qaeda, along with two other attacks on Damascus in December and January.

Aleppo

The McClatchy Newspapers chain said the incidents appeared to verify Assad's charges of al-Qaeda involvement in the uprising against his rule.

On Saturday, snipers were deployed and at least three armoured vehicles seen entering Sakhur, an Aleppo neighbourhood with simmering dissent against Assad's regime, one activist said.

Some residents who lost family members in the bombings were frustrated by the authorities' refusal to hand over their bodies for funerals, the activist, who gave his name only as Mohammed, told AFP by telephone from Aleppo.

"There is a heavy deployment of the security forces in areas of Aleppo that have seen a lot of demonstrations," said the Observatory's Rami Abdel Rahman, adding the regime was trying to stir tensions between loyalists and dissidents.

Aleppo, a commercial hub, has been largely spared the violence that rights groups say has killed more than 6 000 people in Syria since it broke out.

In Doha, the SNC's Ahmed Ramadan said the group has "confirmations of an Arab recognition that will soon take place, though not necessarily on Sunday," when the Arab League holds a ministerial meeting on Syria.

Turkey said, meanwhile, that it plans to lodge a formal request to the UN for an aid operation to help Syrians suffering a "humanitarian tragedy" in their country.

Read more on:    bashar assad  |  syria  |  syria conflict  |  uprisings

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