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8 Feb, 2012 12:19

Death and diplomacy: Homs on the brink

Homs is now the physical and political frontline of the unrest engulfing Syria. Heavy fighting continues for the fifth straight day in the rebel stronghold city, 165 kilometers north of Damascus.

The rebel opposition is imploring the international community to intervene and displace President Assad, despite his commitment to Russian FM Lavrov to engage the opposition in talks to resolve the conflict. Contradicting reports are coming from Free Syrian Army and Govt sources, with little verification from either side. The opposition claims 85 have died in the last 24 hours in Syria, 45 of them in Homs. There are also reports 20 premature babies died when electricity to a hospital was blacked out.The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights alleges dozens were killed in the shelling of Homs neighborhoods over the last few days. The opposition blames the army for using tanks, mortars and heavy machine-guns. Syrian Special Forces also report a major offensive success against militants occupying residential quarters in Homs and the Syrian Ministry of the Interior reports dozens of militants killed and hundreds others arrested after surrenderingThe army has seized large caches of arms, including machine-guns and grenade launchers, night-vision goggles and outfits.The military insists militants were given a chance to surrender, but instead the gangs imposed a regime of terror on Homs civilians, attacking and murdering citizens. They claim they responded to repeated calls from the local population for help.

RT spoke to locally-based journalist Diana Nemeh, who says the information coming from Homs is difficult to verify.“It is really hard to determine what’s going on on the ground there because of safety issues,” she said, adding that it is also hard to “confirm the definite numbers of people dead.”While activists say that Assad’s government has “basically bombed some parts of the city, the government has completely refuted any type of involvement. They blame it on the terrorist groups,” she said.


The 6 members of the Arab League's Gulf Co-operation Council expelled their respective Syrian ambassadors and withdrew their diplomats from Damascus, while France, Spain, Italy and Holland also recalled their ambassadors. The US also closed its diplomatic mission in Syria altogether.On Wednesday, the opposition called for a no-fly zone over Syria and asked for financial support from Arab nations. They addressed businessmen seeking finance to fund their ongoing fight against Assad’s regime While encountering problems on the front, armed opposition says Bashar Assad would only understand a no-fly zone being imposed over his country as a clear signal to stop the bloodshed.Syrian National Council’s Radwan Ziadeh claimed a dialogue with the Assad regime is impossible. “We will not accept any dialogue with Bashar al-Assad,” he said, “Without international intervention Bashar al-Assad will not stop the killings. Without such kind of action enforcing no-fly zone in Syria, I don't think that Bashar al-Assad will understand the message and stop the violence.”Ziadeh said they expected the Russian delegation in Syria to discuss ways to help President Assad to step down. But instead“what's coming out from the visit, it is mainly about getting more financial aid to Bashar al-Assad to continue killing Syrian people.”