Human rights activists say Syrian armed forces have killed at least 217 people in the city of Homs in a surge of violence that began Friday, as the United Nations gets ready to vote on a resolution intended to stop the bloodshed.
The Syrian Observatory For Human Rights said Friday hundreds more have been wounded and dozens of buildings have been destroyed. Much of the shelling has fallen on the Khalidiya neighborhood of Homs where there is strong anti-government sentiment. The city, located in western Syria near the Lebanese border, has been one of the main flashpoints of opposition to the regime during the uprising that began nearly 11 months ago.
As the death toll rose, the U.N. Security Council said it will vote Saturday on a draft resolution on Syria. Russia has threatened to veto earlier versions of the resolution and the Obama administration has been pressing it to back a softened version condemning the violence in that country.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke by telephone Friday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov about the resolution. They are due to meet in person on Saturday in Munich, where both are attending a security conference. Clinton is expected to pressure Lavrov to get Moscow to approve the resolution.
Meanwhile, opposition activists said tens of thousands of people took to the streets in cities and towns across the country to mark the 30th anniversary this week of a bloody crackdown on the city of Hama.
Amnesty International says the February 1982 siege - ordered by the father of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad -- killed between 10,000 and 25,000 people.
Video posted on the Internet claims to show Friday's marches in Homs and Damascus, as well as some in the Idlib region. Another video clip showed a mortar round exploding in a residential area of Homs Thursday.
More than 300 Syrians were killed nationwide in the last week. Much of the violence has occurred near Damascus as government troops drove the rebel Free Syrian Army out of the city's eastern suburbs during several days of heavy fighting.
The Syrian government accuses armed terrorists of driving the anti-Assad revolt and killing 2,000 security personnel. The United Nations estimated the death toll from the 11-month opposition uprising and the government crackdown hit 5,400 last month. It has since stopped updating the figure because of difficulties in obtaining information.
Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.
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