Sunday, February 12, 2012

Rockets hit Homs opposition as Arab ministers meet

Sporadic rocket and gunfire broke a respite in Syrian government attacks on opposition-held districts of Homs city on Sunday as Arab League officials in Cairo discussed ways to halt the crackdown and shift President Bashar al-Assad from power.

The activist Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said four people were been killed in Baba Amro on Sunday morning and at least 34 rockets had rained down on the neighborhood.

Earlier, traumatized residents had straggled from their homes after Syrian forces eased a week-long bombardment that has killed hundreds and caused a humanitarian crisis.

A few families were allowed to leave mostly Sunni Muslim opposition districts where people had been trapped indoors for days by relentless artillery and sniper fire, residents said.

International efforts to resolve the crisis, the longest of the Arab Spring revolts which saw the overthrow of leaders in Libya, Egypt and Tunisia last year, picked up in Cairo.

The Arab League meeting opened with the resignation of the Sudanese general who led the monitoring mission to Syria, Mohammed al-Dabi. He had been a controversial figure because of his country's own poor human rights record.

The League proposed that former Jordanian foreign minister Abdel Elah al-Khatib, the U.N.'s troubleshooter for the Libya crisis last year, was made special envoy for the Syria crisis.

The League, which suspended Syria over a crackdown that has killed thousands since March, was also to discuss a possible joint United Nations-Arab monitoring team to replace a League mission called off last month as violence intensified.

A Syrian opposition leader said Gulf ministers would also discuss a proposal to recognize the exiled Syrian National Council (SNC) in a move to further isolate Assad.

Senior SNC official Abdel Baset, who has been meeting Arab ministers and officials, said ministers were also expected to discuss proposals for a "Friends of Syria" contact group of Arab, Western and other countries to press for action over Syria. The plan was proposed by France and the United States.


In Homs, shelling had eased during Saturday night and Sunday morning before Assad's forces renewed their rocket barrages.

About 15 families were allowed to leave the battered Baba Amro and Inshaat neighborhoods, opposition campaigner Mohammad al-Hassan told Reuters by telephone from Homs.

Electricity and telephone lines were working in several districts of Homs after being cut off more than two weeks ago.

YouTube footage showed several thousand people rallying in Deir Baalba district. Youths with their arms around each others' shoulders danced and waved the green and white flags of the republic overthrown by Assad's Baath Party in a 1963 coup.

"God damn your soul, to hell with you Bashar. Our martyrs are going to heaven, Hafez and Bashar,"...More.

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