Syrian troops move to retake rebel-held district

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On Tuesday, the U.N. raised its death toll for the almost year-long uprising to 7,500, an increase of 2,000 from just two months earlier. Syrian activists say the toll has surpassed 8,000, nearly 6,000 of them civilians and the rest military forces or army defectors fighting the regime. On Monday and Tuesday alone, activists reported more than 250 people killed.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on Tuesday cited a U.N. expert panel’s report that concluded Syrian government officials were responsible for “crimes against humanity” committed by security forces against opposition members. The alleged crimes included shelling civilians, executing deserters and torturing detainees. Some opposition groups, too, had committed gross abuses, the report alleged.

Activists say hundreds of people have been killed in Baba Amr since Feb. 4, when the assault on Homs began. Activists and residents inside Baba Amr could not be reached early Wednesday.

The Observatory also reported that two people were killed Wednesday in the eastern city of Deir el-Zour and the northern village of Maghara.

The Local Coordination Committees reported that the town of Sermin in the northwestern province of Idlib was subjected to shelling in the past days. An Associated Press team in the town witnessed cars run over by army tanks as well as damaged homes and shops.

On Tuesday residents held a funeral for a man they said was beheaded when troops stormed the town on Sunday.

Sheik Moussa, a Sermin resident, said during the funeral: “They are killing people who have nothing to do with all this, who have nothing to do with the situation.”

Syria’s state-run news agency said three gunmen were killed and others were wounded as they tried to cross from Lebanon into Homs province. The agency said a Syrian soldiers was wounded in the clash.

Also Wednesday, China urged world powers to provide humanitarian assistance to Syria, as Beijing tries to bolster diplomacy while continuing to oppose any armed outside intervention in the conflict.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said that Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi broached the idea of assistance in telephone conversations this week with the head of the Arab League and the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia and Algeria.

China defied Western powers and the Arab League by joining Russia to veto a U.N. resolution that outlined plans to end the conflict and condemned Assad’s crackdown on anti-government forces. China was concerned the resolution would pave the way for the West to intervene and unseat an authoritarian government as it had in Libya.

Associated Press writer Albert Aji contributed to this report from Damascus, Syria.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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