News / Middle East

More than 200 Dead After Shelling in Syrian City

A view of houses that residents said were damaged during a military crackdown on protesters against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, is seen in Rasten near Homs, February 3, 2012.
A view of houses that residents said were damaged during a military crackdown on protesters against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, is seen in Rasten near Homs, February 3, 2012.
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Syrian opposition supporters buried the dead Saturday from what they are calling a “massacre” in the country's third largest city of Homs Friday.  More than 200 people were reportedly killed and many others wounded in random shelling of an opposition controlled neighborhood. Opposition activists also stormed Syria's embassies in Egypt and Kuwait, amid widespread condemnation of the violence. Meanwhile at the United Nations Saturday,  Russia and China vetoed a Security Council resolution calling for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down.  

Hundreds of angry mourners chanted slogans against the regime of President Bashar al Assad Saturday, as they carried the coffins of those who died in what is being called a bloody “massacre.”

Opposition witnesses claim that government tanks and artillery opened fire on the opposition neighborhood stronghold of Khalidiya Friday evening, destroying entire buildings and burying scores of people under the rubble. Opposition videos showed at least several dozen corpses of mostly young men.

Syrian government TV called the reports a “fabrication,” and insisted that they were meant to influence the United Nations.

Opposition activist Abou Khaled al Homsi told al Hurra TV that the cannons are now silent, but he denies the government claim:

He says that there's a kind of calm that's fallen over Homs after funerals for the victims, though some skirmishes continue between the Free Syrian Army and the Assad forces at the entrances of several neighborhoods. He says that Syrian media reports are false and claims that it does not bother the government to bomb an entire neighborhood and kill 300 people.”

Government forces opened fire on protesters in the Damascus suburb of Daraya Saturday, during what was reportedly a sympathy march for the victims of Friday's bombing in Homs. Videos of protests in other towns and cities were posted on opposition websites.

Scores of opposition protesters attacked the Syrian Embassy in Cairo, setting fire to part of the building and ransacking the ambassador's office. Another crowd of angry protesters also attacked the Syrian Embassy in the Gulf state of Kuwait.
There were also reported attacks on Syrian embassies in Berlin, London and Athens and on the Syrian consulate in Istanbul.

Middle East analyst Fouad Ajami of the Hoover Institution argues that its still difficult to predict if and when President Assad is going to fall, but that his power has been seriously eroded. "People say (Assad) is a dead man walking, but it's not true. People say his fall is imminent. People say 'within weeks,' but the weeks stretch on. I think that by its nature, the standoff between Bashar and his opposition, the dissidents, the protesters....this standoff is uncallable. We don't know how it ends. He's hunkered down, but the opposition, the Syrian population that has broken with him. I can't see them going back to obedience," he said.

Ajami does believe, however, that the equation in Syria has changed dramatically in recent weeks, after parts of Damascus and Syria's second city of Aleppo joined the protests, and as the economy sours. "Something happened recently, which I think will change the dynamics. I've always refused to make any predictions, but I think the eruption of both Aleppo and Damascus has changed the dynamics. The equation has been altered. The last arrow in the quiver of Bashar, that he is good for commerce, good for the bazaar and good for stability, they're gone," he said.

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