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Families gather at a shelter in the Baba Amr neighborhood of Homs province in central Syria to hide from shelling by the Syrian government. As Syrian forces have stepped up their assault on rebellious cities, President Bashar Assad ordered a referendum on a new constitution that would create a multiparty system in a country that has been ruled by his autocratic family dynasty for 40 years. (Associated Press)

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Wreckage is seen inside a room damaged by shelling by Syrian government forces in Homs. Activists reported at least 50 people were killed in military assaults targeting government opponents on Wednesday. (Associated Press)

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APTOPIX Mideast Syria_Lea(1).jpg

Syrian rebels take their position behind a wall as they fire their guns during a battle with Syrian government forces in the Rastan area of Homs province in central Syria on Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2012. (AP Photo)

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The Syrian government mobilized people loyal to President Bashar Assad at rallies across the country Tuesday, including a massive gathering in Damascus, to show that the embattled leader's regime has wide support. The same day, Mr. Assad fired his Cabinet and promised an end to emergency laws in an attempt to placate dissenters. (Associated Press)