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Hours after the United Nation’s special envoy to Syria left the country, activists reported that dozens of civilians were killed in the besieged city of Homs.
Homs has been an opposition stronghold since the Syrian uprising began a year ago. Government forces have been launching a heavy assault on the city for weeks now as they try to eradicate pockets of rebel fighters.
Syrian's main opposition group said that government forces killed nearly 50 women and children and called for an emergency UN Security Council meeting, Al Arabiya reports.
The massacre was carried out by the security forces and the regime’s ‘shabbiha’ (thugs), who killed the victims inside their homes, activists told Al Arabiya. The victims were killed by horrific methods; including burning, breaking their bones or slaughtering, according to activists. There were also at least 16 cases of rape reported, according to a local physician.
The Syrian regime has acknowledged the killings, which took place in the neighborhood of Karm el-Zaytoun in Homs, but officials say terrorists were responsible for the deaths. The government-run Syrian Arab News Agency quoted a local resident in Homs who said, “the attacks by the armed terrorist groups, have turned their life into hell under house arrest, using their houses as prisons, kidnapping and killing the citizens [and] casting their corpses at al-Siteen Street, Homs.”
The agency also accused Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya, which have shown pictures of the bodies, as working with the “armed terrorist groups.”
Meanwhile, government forces have increased pressure on Idlib, a governorate with a capital of the same name near the Turkish border where rebels have a strong foothold. Increased shelling over the weekend sent at least 189 Syrian refugees into Turkey, reports Al Jazeera. At least 25 have been reported dead in Idlib and Turkish officials say they expect more refugees to flee into Turkey in the coming days.
“After shelling the city, security forces began a house-to-house search for activists and protesters,” said Abu Hani, a resident of Idlib in a phone interview with Al Jazeera. “And soldiers have been granted complete freedom to loot everything from homes and shops.”
Despite the reports of graphic violence in Syria over the weekend and indications that more is to come, UN-Arab League peace envoy Kofi Annan ended a two-day mission to Damascus on Sunday hopeful about reaching a settlement. Mr. Annan met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and presented “concrete proposals” for how to end the violence. Although no accord was reached, the former UN chief said he felt positive about the meeting.
“It’s going to be tough, it’s going to be difficult, but we have to have hope. I am optimistic,” Annan said, according to an article by Agence France-Presse. “The situation is so bad and so dangerous that all of us cannot afford to fail.”
Among the proposals offered by Annan are a cease-fire, the release of detainees, and the start of an inclusive political dialogue. Still, CNN reports that it remains unclear if Mr. Assad would be willing to accept any of these proposals.