Pressure for Western intervention in Syria builds with fresh assaults
A Syrian Army invasion of opposition neighborhoods in Homs is seemingly imminent and explosions rocked the northern city of Aleppo today.
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Conditions in Syria are deteriorating further, with explosions in the northern city of Aleppo killing 25 people and wounding 175 more, while tanks amassed in the flashpoint city of Homs, apparently to invade opposition neighborhoods that the Syrian Army has been shelling for days. The worsening situation ratchets up the pressure on the Arab League and the West to intervene in the conflict, though both remain opposed to direct military involvement.
Reuters reports that the broadcast of the Aleppo explosions showed human remains on the street at the site of the attacks, as well as damage to a building and several cars. Opposition members in Aleppo also said they heard two explosions within the city, followed by gunfire near a military headquarters and a military hospital, says CNN. According to state television, the explosions targeted Syrian military and security buildings. The opposition's confirmation lends credence to the story by the state news service, which has aired dubious reports in the past, as Al Jazeera English has pointed out.
Meanwhile, activists in Homs report that government tanks appear to be gathering outside dissident neighborhoods in preparation for an attack. The Guardian reports that the roads in and out of Baba Amr, a besieged opposition neighborhood, were cut off, closing supply routes and avenues of escape for the suburb. The neighborhood has been the target of shelling since the weekend. Activists said that more than 100 people were killed in the bombardment on Thursday, although locals say that precise counts are impossible.
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"We can't count the number of the dead in the rubble. When we pull someone from the rubble, we don't know if they were killed today, yesterday or before," [local resident Basil] Abu Fouad said by phone from a basement in Baba Amr.
"Communications have been completely cut off between neighbourhoods. The army have blocked access to the city. Some people tried to escape but they found all the roads were closed. There is no food left in the city. We don't have milk. All the water tanks have been targeted. We don't have medicines. If you go to the shops and try to get in, the snipers up on the roofs will shoot you," he said.
Reuters adds that Free Syrian Army rebels in Baba Amr are preparing defenses against a government assault.
The rising death toll will likely put greater pressure on the US, Europe, and the Arab League to intervene in the conflict in some capacity. All remain opposed to direct military intervention, but calls have been increasing for providing support to the rebels, perhaps even in the form of munitions.
But determining whom to supply may be difficult, the Monitor reports, as the Free Syrian Army is only a loose military body without a cohesive command and control structure. There was recently a dispute between its commanders over who would coordinate the forces, which could reduce its ability to confront government troops.
Arming the rebels could also put Western nations in a proxy war with Russia and Iran. Russia continues to sell weapons to the Syrian government, despite Western protests. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told an accusatory William Hague, his British counterpart, that such sales are not illegal, writes The Telegraph.
The Telegraph also reports that leaders of Iran's Quds Brigade, a special unit of the Revolutionary Guard, have been advising Syria on how to quash protests and gather intelligence on the opposition. There are also reports in the Arab media that Iran-allied Hezbollah snipers from Lebanon have been brought in to back the government.