Syria: activists report scores dead in Homs massacre


A picture shows damaged buildings in the city of Rastan, near the flashpoint city of Homs, on March 9, 2012 which has been bombed by Syrian forces intermittently since February 5. -/AFP/Getty Images



BEIRUT, Lebanon — Syrian activists on Sunday reported a "massacre" in the formerly rebel-held Homs neighborhood of Karm el-Zeytoun. Photos posted online by activists show children with gaping head wounds. (WARNING: Extremely graphic images.) Reuters reported that both the government and activists acknowledged the killings were done "in cold blood," but disputed who was responsible.

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Meanwhile renewed efforts to end the violence at the UN Security Council appeared as fruitless as ever, according to Reuters, with dialogue among permanent members failing to end Russian and Chinese opposition to a call for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to go. Reuters also reported that a Syrian exile group, the Syrian National Council, had announced it would arm rebel fighters with the help of unnamed foreign governments.

The Associated Press reported that activists blamed the Homs massacre on "shabiha," a word used to describe armed militias. Syrian government media acknowledged the killings but blamed them on "terrorists" who hope to "bring international condemnation to the regime" in advance of a United Nations Security Council meeting today. Hadi Abdullah, an activists, said "Syrian forces and thugs" were responsible, according to CNN.

Different activist groups gave different counts of the dead, the AP said. The Local Coordination Committee, an activist group, pegged Monday's dead count at 108, with 70 dead in Homs, 45 of which it attributed to the massacre.

Hours before the alleged massacre, Kofi Annan, the joint UN-Arab League envoy to Syria, left Damascus without any agreement to end the violence. Opposition leaders and president Bashar al-Assad ruled out a ceasefire, the BBC reported.

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The Agence France-Presse news agency reported today that the Homs massacre had sent scores of Syrians fleeing into Lebanon.

"We ran away after we heard of the massacre in Karm el-Zaytoun and after families from the neighbourhood told us what happened there," Um Mohammed was quoted as saying after arriving in the Lebanese city of Tripoli with her husband and daughter.