EU threatens new sanctions on Syria
Activists said at least 50 people died in Wednesday’s shelling of Homs, which has been under a relentless regime offensive for the past five days. Hundreds are believed to have been killed there since Saturday.
Syria’s state-run TV reported that gunmen fired mortar rounds at the oil refinery in Homs, one of two in Syria, setting two fuel tankers on fire but firefighters were able to control the blaze afterward. The TV also reported that gunmen attacked Homs’ Baath University causing damage but no casualties.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 50 people were killed in Wednesday’s shelling of the Homs neighborhoods of Bayadah, Baba Amr, Khaldiyeh and Karm el-Zeytoun. The group also said that 23 homes were heavily damaged in Baba Amr alone.
Omar Shaker, an activist in Baba Amr, said his neighborhood was under “very intense shelling” by tanks, mortars, artilleries and heavy machine guns. Shaker added that he counted five bodies Wednesday in his district.
“The situation is dire. We are short of food, water and medical aid. Doctors have collapsed after treating the wounded without rest for five days,” Shaker said. “We want Lavrov to come and spend a night in Homs to see what we have been passing through.”
The activist urged the international community to set up a safe passage so that women and children can leave volatile areas of Homs.
The head of the Observatory, Rami Abdul-Rahman, said the regime was trying “exhaust rebels in preparation for storming neighborhoods.”
The Observatory and another activist group, the Local Coordination Committees, also reported intense clashes between troops loyal to Assad and defectors on Wednesday in the province of Idlib, bordering Turkey. The Observatory said at least five soldiers were killed in the clashes.
The LCC said troops backed by tanks were also shelling and pushing forward in the southern village of Tseel in the Daraa province that borders Jordan. The group also said that rebel-controlled Zabadani, west of Damascus, was subjected to intense shelling since the early hours of the day.
• Associated Press writer Mansur Mirovalev in Moscow and Slobodan Lekic in Brussels contributed to this report.