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Fresh Syria violence kills 23 in Homs

Syria’s Observatory for Human Rights has declared that shelling and gunfire in the violent city of Homs has left 23 people dead. The instability occurs before the visit of Arab League observers in the capital, Damascus.

Opposition activists are urging the observers, who are coming as part of an agreement to attempt to stop the violence rocking the country, to visit Homs. Damascus has declared its battle against armed gangs. The clampdown has claimed over 5,000 lives, according to the UN.

This fresh bloodshed is said to have taken place mostly in Homs’ Baba Amr district, which has reportedly been beseiged by military forces. The Observatory for Human Rights reported that on Monday this area alone witnessed 15 deaths.

Several lives have been claimed in the city due to machine gun fire and mortar shelling over the past few days, say activists. Homs is expected to be among the first stops for the Arab observer trip.

International observers have suggested that Homs could prove to be a test study for the observer group in terms of deciding whether they have truly unrestricted access or whether there exists any peace for any monitoring. Rallies against President Bashar al-Assad’s government first broke out in March. Death tolls are hard to confirm since most foreign press are not allowed to report in Syria.

About 50 monitors from the Arab League are expected to come, with observers dividing up into smaller groups. The agreement allows the observers to move freely wherever they wish go. The mission will eventually consist of about 200 members, and it is planning to meet officials from both the government and the opposition.

Last Sunday, the rival Syrian National Council (SNC), which is the principle umbrella group of Assad opponents, encouraged monitors to visit Homs without any delay. Graphic scenes purporting to reveal the aftermath of violence in Baba Amr have been published on the internet, showing bleeding corpses a woman yelling for aid from the international community.

Last Friday saw two suicide car bombings in the capital, which claimed 44 lives and injured over 150 people. Syrian officials blamed al-Qaeda, although the opposition insinuated that security forces were responsible for the blasts.

With a strong security presence, the capital has largely escaped the fresh violence flaring up in the northern and central provinces. However, there have been demonstrations in Damascus suburbs. Walid Muallem, who is the Syrian Foreign Minister, says he expects the observers to support the government’s claim that the continuing violence is being carried out by armed gangs.





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