Rights Activists Say Syrian Forces Kill 2 in Homs

Posted September 5th, 2011 at 6:55 am (UTC-5)
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Syrian rights activists say government security forces have killed two people after storming the central city of Homs, in a continuing crackdown against dissent.

The operation comes as the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross is set to meet with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. ICRC head Jakob Kellenberger met Sunday in Damascus with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem to push for medical care for the wounded and access to detainees.

Rights groups said security forces killed at least 12 civilians Sunday during raids on restive northwestern towns, including eight people in Idlib province and four more in central areas near Hama.

Both regions have seen intensified government operations against people involved in popular unrest since last week's defection of Hama's attorney-general.

Also Sunday, the state-run news agency reported that armed “terrorist” groups ambushed a bus in central Syria, killing six soldiers and three civilians.

Earlier, Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby said Syria agreed to host him for a visit, likely this week. Elaraby said Sunday the Syrian government told him it “welcomes” the trip. He said he will express Arab concerns about the violence that has shaken the country and listen to the opinions of Syrian leaders.

One week ago, Syrian authorities rejected an Arab League statement calling for an end to the violence. The pan-Arab organization – of which Syria is a member – urged Mr. Assad to stop the bloodshed “before it is too late.”

The United Nations says more than 2,200 people have been killed during the Syrian crackdown since March, when protesters began calling for reforms and an end to Mr. Assad's autocratic rule. The Syrian government blames the violence on what it calls armed gangs and terrorists backed by foreign conspirators.

Mr. Assad's crackdown on dissent has drawn international criticism and sanctions. The European Union announced Friday it is banning imports of Syrian oil and petroleum products, which will cost the embattled government millions of dollars each day.