Artillery attacks reported in Homs, Syria

June 8, 2012 at 11:34 AM
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HOMS, Syria, June 8 (UPI) -- A rebel position in the city of Homs was shelled by Syrian forces Friday, activists said. There were no immediate reports of casualties.

Activists and human rights groups said the neighborhood of Khaldiyeh in central Homs was hit by artillery fire during the morning, The Washington Post reported.

The report came a day after U.N. Special Envoy Kofi Annan said there is a need for "substantial pressure" to end the crisis in Syria.

Annan and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for a reinvigorated diplomatic push to avoid a civil war in the country where opposition forces reported a massacre this week in the farming hamlet of Qubeir.

"We will soon reach a day when it will be impossible to keep the crisis from spiraling out of control," Annan told the U.N. Security Council.

Xinhua reported that Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said Friday the international community should be "confident and patient" regarding Annan's peace efforts for Syria.

China, along with Russia, has twice blocked Security Council resolutions against Syria.

U.N. observers were able to reach Qubeir in the west-central province of Hama Friday after being blocked from the area the day before, CBS reported.

On Wednesday, the opposition said, regime forces massacred as many as 78 people -- half of them women and children -- in Qubeir.

Ban called the reports from Qubeir "shocking and sickening."

"The bodies of innocent civilians, lying where they were, shot. Some were allegedly burned [alive] or slashed with knives," he said.

The Qubeir attack was described by activists and residents as resembling a May 25 massacre of 108 people -- mostly women and children -- in the Houla agriculture area of western Syria northwest of Homs.

Ban said it has been evident for many months that President Bashar Assad and his government had "lost all legitimacy" but now it is clear that "any regime or leader that tolerates such killing of innocents has lost its fundamental humanity."

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the massacres "unconscionable" and called on Assad to surrender power and go into exile.

Syrian U.N. Ambassador Bashar Jaafari denied regime involvement in the Qubeir massacre, telling the Security Council "terrorists" outmaneuvering Syrian armed forces had carried it out.

Regime troops tried to save civilians and four were wounded in the attempt, he said.

He accused TV news organizations of broadcasting images of bodies from a different location and mislabeling the footage as coming from Qubeir.

Syrian state television will release "true images" in due time, he said.

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