Syria: new wave of bloody attacks kills 50 in Homs
Syrian forces bombarded the city of Homs early today in a fresh wave of attacks called "the most violent" in recent days as William Hague said blood spilt there would be on Russia and China's hands.
At least 50 people have died this morning during the attacks, a senior member of the Syrian National Council said.
"The tally that we have received from various activists in Homs since the shelling started at six this morning is 50, mostly civilians. The regime is acting as if it were immune to international intervention and has a free hand to use violence against the people," Catherine al-Talli told Reuters.
Arab satellite television stations broadcast live footage from Homs this morning as the bombs went off during the call to prayer.
Explosions could be heard and smoke was seen rising form some buildings.
The bombardment appeared to be more widely targeted than previously, with explosions in Khalidiya, Baba Amro, Bayada and Bab Dreib neighbourhoods, the activists said.
Yesterday as another 40 people were killed Mr Hague called for the Arab League to take a leading role in forcing Syrian President Bashar al Assad to step down as he accused Moscow and Beijing of tipping Syria closer to civil war.
The Foreign Secretary said that in the wake of Russia and China deciding to veto a United Nations Security Council resolution condemning Mr Assad, Britain and its allies would work with Arab nations on further “diplomatic and economic steps” against the Syrian regime.
Warning that their double veto would only make “continued violence and instability” in Syria “more likely”, Mr Hague said future blood spilt would be “on their hands” and that the Syrian president would have been encouraged by their actions.
“Will he (Mr Assad) have been emboldened by the fact that Russia and China vetoed the resolution? Yes, I think so,” Mr Hague said. The regime’s intransigence, he added, was “tipping parts of Syria, some of the towns and cities of Syria, closer to something that begins to look like a civil war”.
Russia yesterday launched a fierce defence of its decision to veto the resolution - a move the US secretary of state Hillary Clinton described as a “travesty” - blaming the West for its failure.
“The authors of the draft Syria resolution, unfortunately, did not want to undertake an extra effort and come to a consensus,” the deputy foreign minister, Gennady Gatilov, claimed.
In an attempt to save face, Moscow said it would send a high-powered delegation to Damascus on Tuesday, led by the foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, and the foreign intelligence chief, Mikhail Fradkov, to ask Mr Assad to institute “much-needed democratic reforms”.
China has also defended its vote, rejecting US accusations and claiming the UN resolution was "not conducive" to progress.
However, Mr Hague said the Arab League should now try to pursue their own peace plan - which calls for Mr Assad to step aisde - without UN permission.