ARMED forces loyal to President Bashar Assad barraged residential buildings with mortars and machine-gun fire, killing at least 30 people, activists said this afternoon.
Heavy gunfire erupted for a second day today in the city, which has seen some of the heaviest violence of the 10-month-old uprising against Assad’s rule. Activists said at least four people were killed.
In an attempt to stop the bloodshed in Syria, the UN Security Council is to hold a closed-door meeting to discuss the crisis, a step toward a possible resolution against the Damascus regime, diplomats said. The body says at least 5,400 people have been killed in the government crackdown since March, and the turmoil has intensified as dissident soldiers have joined the ranks of the anti-Assad protesters and carried out attacks on regime forces.
Meanwhile, a video posted online by activists showed the bodies of five small children, five women of varying ages and a man, all bloodied and piled on beds. It appeared to be an apartment after a building was hit yesterday in the Karm el-Zaytoun neighborhood of the city. A narrator said an entire family had been “slaughtered”, thought The video could not be independently verified.
Details of yesterday’s wave of killings in Homs were emerging from an array of residents and activists today, though they said they were having difficulty because of continuing gunfire.
“There has been a terrifying massacre,” Rami Abdul-Rahman, director of the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, tsaid. He called for an independent investigation of the killings.
Thursday started with a spate of sectarian kidnappings and killings between the city’s population of Sunnis and Allawites, a Shiite sect to which Assad belongs and which is the backbone of his regime, said Mohammad Saleh, a centrist opposition figure and activist resident of Homs.
There were also a string of attacks by unknown gunmen on army checkpoints, Saleh said. Checkpoints are a frequent target of dissident troops who have joined the opposition.
The violence culminated with the evening killing of the family, Saleh said, adding that the full details of what happened were not yet clear.
The Observatory said 29 people were killed, including eight children, when a building came under heavy mortar and machine gun fire. Some residents spoke of another massacre that took place when shabiha - armed regime loyalists - stormed the district, slaughtering residents in an apartment, including children.
“It’s racial cleansing,” said one Sunni resident of Karm el-Zaytoun. “They are killing people because of their sect,” he said.
Some residents said kidnappers were holding Alawites in the building hit by mortars and gunfire in Karm el-Zaytoun, but the reports could not be confirmed.
Thursday’s death toll in Homs city was at least 35, said the Observatory and the Local Coordination Committees, an umbrella group of activists. Both groups cite a network of activists on the ground in Syria for their death tolls. The reports could not be confirmed.