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Syrian forces shell Homs neighborhood, activists say. Troop assault next?

A rebel-held neighborhood in the Syrian city of Homs was shelled Friday by Syrian troops, according to activists. Also, UN monitors entered the Syrian village where reports of a new massacre have surfaced this week.

By Bassem MroueAssociated Press / June 8, 2012

This image made from amateur video released by Shaam News Network and accessed Friday, June 8, purports to show explosions in the Khaldiyeh area of Homs, Syria.

Shaam News Network via AP video/AP

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Beirut

Syrian troops on Friday heavily shelled a rebel-held neighborhood in the flashpoint central city of Homs as the military appeared to be readying to storm the area, activists said.

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Also, U.N. observers entered an area where a massacre was reported this week, an activist said Friday. The monitors were stopped and fired upon Thursday.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Local Coordination Committees had no immediate word on casualties from the shelling of the Khaldiyeh neighborhood in Homs. Amateur videos posted online showed a small white plane, apparently a drone, flying over Homs.

"Khaldiyeh is being subjected to five to 10 shells a minute in the worst shelling since the revolution began," the Observatory said in a statement Friday. "It seems they are trying to enter it today."

Homs has been one of the hardest hit regions in Syria since the uprising against Assad's regime began in March last year. The U.N. said several weeks ago that more than 9,000 people have been killed since the crisis began while activists put the number of dead at about 13,000.

Amateur videos showed missiles exploding into balls of flames in the crowded concrete jumble of homes, in cracking, thundering crashes that sent plumes of menacing, heavy gray smoke over Homs. The videos suggested the attack began at dawn, as birds chirped, roosters crowed, and the sun cast a yellow glow.

In one video, the missiles came in rapid succession, four exploding in less than a minute.

Friday's violence came two days after reports of mass killing in the nearby province of Hama, where about 80 people, including women and children, were shot or stabbed. Leith Al-Hamwy, an activist and resident of Mazraat al-Qubair told The Associated Press that a group of observers entered the area, first visiting a cemetery where some of the dead were buried, continuing to the site of the mass killing. In Geneva, International Committee of the Red Cross spokesman Hicham Hassan told reporters Friday that the humanitarian situation in Syria was worsening.

"Currently the situation is extremely tense, not only in Houla, not only in Hama, but in many, many places around the country," he said referring to the string of villages known as Houla, where more than 100 people were massacred last month. The opposition and the regime blamed each other for the Houla massacre.

Hassan cited the countryside around the northern city of Idlib, suburbs of the capital Damascus, the eastern province of Deir el-Zour and the coastal region of Latakia as those targeted in the latest attacks

In Brussels, Kristalina Georgieva, European commissioner for humanitarian aid, talked about the Syrian crisis and EU aid saying, "we're talking 1 million vulnerable people who need humanitarian assistance."

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