Syria: Homs oil pipeline bombed

Feb. 15, 2012 at 4:26 PM
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HOMS, Syria, Feb. 15 (UPI) -- Opposition activists said Syrian warplanes bombed an oil pipeline in Homs Wednesday while government-run media blamed the explosion on terrorists.

Witnesses said the military was conducting a sustained assault on the city that included artillery fire and machine-gun fire, CNN reported.

Plumes of smoke rising from the bombed pipeline could be seen in parts of the besieged city where residents say they are running out of food, water and medical supplies, and fear venturing outdoors in daylight because of snipers.

Opposition activists across the violence-wracked country said three bodies were recovered from Idlib province Wednesday and one person was killed in Aleppo.

Human rights organizations said information they received indicated government forces were leveling neighborhoods in Homs where dissidents calling for the ouster of Syrian President Bashar Assad may be hiding.

Explosions shook two neighborhoods in Hama as military forces rushed the city Wednesday morning, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. It said landline telephone service, cell phone communications and Internet access were taken down.

Meanwhile, Syria's government-run SANA news agency said Assad set Feb. 26 for a referendum on a new constitution, The New York Times reported. The referendum originally was scheduled for March.

Opposition leaders had called for constitutional changes at the beginning of the Syrian uprising in March, but since have called for Assad to leave office.

Last year, Assad also promised to conduct elections in February, but the announcement Wednesday concerned only a referendum on constitutional changes, the Times said.

"That's actually quite laughable. It makes a mockery of the Syrian revolution," White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters en route to Milwaukee. "Promises of reform have usually been followed by an increase in brutality and have never been delivered upon by this regime."

Carney predicted the Assad regime's days are numbered.

"Syria's future will not include Assad," he said. "It's not a question of if, it's a question of when."

Black Clouds over Besieged Homs
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The Local Coordination Committees of Syria, an opposition group, reported 49 deaths across Syria on Tuesday. The United Nations has said at least 5,400 people have been killed in the 11-month-old conflict, but conditions on the ground makes it difficult to update the number. The LCC has said more than 7,000 people have been killed.

In New York, the U.N. General Assembly could take up a draft resolution condemning Syria as soon as Wednesday, CNN said. Although not binding, the vote would be the strongest U.N. statement made yet on the violence. Russia and China have vetoed U.N. Security Council attempts to condemn Syria for the crackdown.

European Union diplomats said they expect new EU sanctions on Syria by Feb. 27, CNN reported. The new sanctions would target Syria's Central Bank and ban exports of precious metals and phosphates.

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