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Two main opposition groups, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Local Coordination Committees, said the death toll in Homs was more than 200 people and included women and children in mortar shelling that began late Friday. More than half of the killings — about 140 — were reported in the Khaldiyeh neighborhood, they said.

“This is the worst attack of the uprising, since the uprising began in March until now,” said Rami Abdul-Rahman, the head of the Observatory, which tracks violence through contacts on the ground.

The reports could not be independently confirmed.

Homs is a hotbed of dissent to Assad’s regime and is known to shelter a large number of army defectors. The city has seen several crackdowns by security forces but many parts of it remain outside of government control.

Ammar, a resident of the Bab Tadmur district of Homs, said the real death toll exceeded 330, and hundreds of others were wounded. He did not elaborate.

“A few more nights like this one and Homs will be erased from the map,” said the distraught man by telephone. “We are being massacred, what is the Security Council still waiting for?”

The Syrian National Council, Syria’s main opposition group, put the toll at more than 220.

It called on Russia to stop its “shameful intransigeance” at the U.N. and for the world to take action to stop the bloodshed. It also called for Syrians to protest outside their embassies.

In Cairo, Syrian protesters set part of the embassy on fire Friday night. Protesters in Kuwait broke windows at the embassy and hoisted the opposition flag, and the Kuwait news agency said a number of security personnel were hurt in scuffles.

Assad is trying to crush the revolt with a sweeping crackdown since March. But neither the government nor the protesters are backing down. The opposition, which began with peaceful protests, has turned more and more to arms, and clashes with the military have thrown many parts of the country into relentless violence.

This month, the regime has seemed to have stepped up its use of force to stamp out the defectors. Last week, the military launched a heavy assault in the suburbs east of Damascus after dissidents showed greater control there. Three days of fighting ensued in residential areas, killing several hundred, until the regime appeared to have silence the dissidents for now.

The U.N. said in December that that more than 5,400 people have been killed since March, but it has been unable to update its count for weeks due to the chaos. Hundreds more have been killed since that tally was announced.

The U.N. Security Council is scheduled Saturday to take up the Syria resolution, and diplomatic efforts continued to the last minute to try to avert a Russian veto.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was to meet Saturday with Russia’s Lavrov on the sidelines of a security conference in Berlin.

Lavrov said the latest version of the resolution resolves “quite a number of things which were important to us.” But, he said, it makes too few demands of anti-Assad armed groups, and Moscow remains concerned about whether it prejudges the outcome of a national dialogue among political forces in Syria that it is trying, with little success, to arrange.

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