Activists report ‘terrifying massacre’ in Syria

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It’s racial cleansing … They are killing people because of their sect,’ one resident of Homs claims


Str  /  AP

Syrian army defectors celebrate after they joined anti-government protesters in Khalidiya, Homs province, on Thursday. staff and news service reports — updated 15 minutes ago

BEIRUTUpdated at 3:15 a.m. ET: Rami Abdul-Rahman, director of the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, describes the killings of at least 35 people in the city of Homs as a “terrifying massacre.”

Videos posted online from activists showed the bodies of children wrapped in plastic bags lined up next to each other. Another video shows women and children with bloodied faces and clothes and in a house, with the narrator saying an entire family with its children had been “slaughtered.”

The videos could not be independently verified.

The U.N. Security Council meets on Friday to discuss the next move on Syria and council envoys said members will be given a new Western-Arab draft resolution that supports the Arab League’s call for President Bashar Assad to transfer his powers to his deputy.

The resolution calls for Assad’s deputy to set up a unity government and prepare for elections after a ten-month crackdown.

The Security Council could vote as early as next week on the resolution, which diplomats from Britain and France are crafting in consultation with Qatar, Morocco, the United States, Germany and Portugal, envoys said. It replaces a Russian text that Western diplomats say is too weak.

The Observatory and the Local Coordination Committees, an umbrella group of activists, both said the death toll in Homs was at least 35, but the reports could not be confirmed. The groups cited a network of activists on the ground in Syria.

The Observatory said 29 people were killed in the religiously mixed Karm el-Zaytoun neighborhood of Homs on Thursday, including eight children, most of them when a building came under heavy mortar and machine gunfire.

Residents spoke of another massacre that took place when shabiha — armed regime loyalists — stormed the district, slaughtering residents in an apartment, including children.

“It’s racial cleansing,” said one resident of Karm el-Zaytoun, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal. “They are killing people because of their sect,” he said.

Published at 4:30 a.m. ET: Dozens of people were killed in a day of relentless violence in the restive Syrian city of Homs, two activist groups said on Friday.

Two activist groups said the death toll in Homs on Thursday was at least 35, but the reports could not be confirmed. Details about the bloodshed were only emerging Friday.

Witnesses on the ground told The Associated Press they were still gathering information but that the city was rocked by sectarian killings, gunfire and explosions for much of Thursday.

Many of the reported victims were inside a building in the Karm el-Zaytoun neighborhood, the AP reported. Activists say at least 22 civilians were killed in the building, including children.

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The Local Coordination Committees said in an email sent to news media that a total of 65 people were killed in Syria Thursday.

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“Among them were 10 children, 4 women and 8 defected military soldier, they were martyred on Thursday by the bullets of security forces and the heavy weaponry of the military,” the email said.

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The Syrian uprising against the Bashar Assad regime began last March with largely peaceful anti-government protests, but it has grown increasingly militarized in recent months.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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