HOMS - In a new escalation of its deadly crackdown on anti-regime opponents, Syrian forces pounded opposition-held neighborhoods of the city of Homs with rockets and mortar fire on Thursday, February 9.
"I fear that the appalling brutality we are witnessing in Homs, with heavy weapons firing into civilian neighborhoods, is a grim harbinger of things to come," UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said, Reuters reported.
Activists say that Syrian forces bombed opposition-held neighborhoods in Homs with rockets and mortar fires.
The Syrian Revolution Coordinating Commission said at least 30 civilians in Homs were killed in the bombardment on Thursday morning.
The main street in Baba Amro was strewn with rubble and at least one house was destroyed, according to YouTube footage broadcast by activists from the district who said troops had used anti-aircraft cannon to demolish the building.
The video showed a youth putting two bodies wrapped in blankets in a truck. What appeared to be body parts were shown inside the house.
Activists said neighborhoods of Homs remained without electricity and water and basic supplies were running low.
The Syrian Human Rights Organization (Sawasiah) said in a statement that this week's assault on Homs had killed at least 300 civilians and wounded 1,000, not counting Thursday's toll.
There was no comment from the Syrian authorities, who have placed tight restrictions on access to the country and it was not possible to verify the reports of local activists.
Syria has been hit by popular protests in March, inspired by uprising in the Arab world, for an end to Assad's 11-year rule.
More than 6,000 people have been killed in the crackdown on protestors, according to the United Nations.
Syrian opposition put the number at more than 7300 deaths over the nearly 11-month-old uprising.
Opposition figures say that anti-regime troops were staging hit-and-run guerrilla attacks against government forces in Homs.
"The regime cannot keep tanks for long inside opposition neighborhoods because they will be ambushed," Mazen Adi, a prominent Syrian opposition figure in Paris, said.
"It is retaliating by hysterical bombing that is killing mostly civilians and with mass executions."
The anti-regime attacks were orchestrated by the Free Syrian Army, largely made up of soldiers who have defected from the government forces.
The role of the Free Syrian Army highlighted the slide in the uprising against the Assad family's 42-year dynastic rule from civilian demonstrations to armed insurgency over the past few months.
Exile activist Massoud Akko urged Turkey and Western countries to organize an airlift to Homs and other stricken cities and towns that have borne the brunt of the crackdown.
"This could be done by air drops into Homs similar to what the United States did in Iraqi Kurdistan in the 1990s," Akko said, of help for Iraq's ethnic minority during its fight against Saddam Hussein.
Syria's position at the heart of the Middle East, allied to Iran and home to a volatile religious and ethnic mix, means Assad's international opponents have ruled out the kind of military action they took against Libya's Muammar Gaddafi.
Russia and China, which let the United Nations support the air campaign in Libya, provoked strong condemnation from the United States, European powers and Arab governments when they vetoed a resolution in the Security Council last week that called on Assad to step down.
Moscow, for whom Syria is a buyer of arms and host to a Soviet-era naval base, wants to counter US influence and maintain its traditional role in the Middle East.For both Russia and China, Syria is also a test case for efforts to resist international encroachment on sovereign governments' freedom to deal with rebels as they see fit.