Middle East News
Fierce clashes erupt between deserters and Syrian army in Homs
Mar 9, 2012, 7:02 GMT
Beirut - Fierce clashes erupted early Friday between deserters and army troops in the central Syrian province of Homs as the opposition called for massive Friday protests, activists said.
'Heavy clashes were raging at the outskirts of the Rastan and al-Kussair areas between members of the [opposition] Free Syrian Army and government troops,' said Abu Imad, a Syrian activist based in northern Lebanon.
Black smoke could be seen billowing over the targeted areas from the border region in northern Lebanon, he said.
The Syrian Local Coordination Committees, an opposition group documenting violence across Syria, said Syrian troops were bombarding areas in Karam al-Zeitoun, al-Khalidiyeh and al-Bayada in the restive province.
Activists reported that security forces on Thursday killed 62 people across the country.
They added that the army has sent more troop reinforcements to the north-western province of Idlib, where activists have been fearing an assault similar to the one that devastated the Baba Amr neighbourhood of Homs.
'Tanks are moving in the village of al-Najia following heavy shelling of the area,' activist Mohamed Abdullah said.
The province near the Turkish border is a stronghold for the opposition Free Syrian Army.
News coming out of Syria cannot be verified because journalists are barred from entering restive areas.
Meanwhile, the opposition called for massive protests across the country against calls by the UN-Arab League special envoy to Syria, Kofi Annan, for dialogue with the government of President Bashar al-Assad. Annan, a former UN secretary general, was due in Syria Saturday.
'How can we carry out a dialogue with a regime that is still killing our women and children?' asked Omar Homsi, an activist in Homs.
UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos, who is on a separate mission to Syria, said Thursday that she was 'devastated' by the destruction she had seen in the Baba Amr district.
State-run media said the damage Amos has seen in Homs was carried out by 'terrorist gangs,' which the government has been blaming for the unrest in the country since mid-March 2011.
The violence so far has killed more than 7,500 people, according to UN estimates.
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