Syria army kills 23 civilians in protest cities: watchdog
BEIRUT - Agence France-Presse
An image grab taken from a video uploaded on YouTube on June 8, 2012 shows smoke billowing from the flashpoint Syrian city of Homs. AFP photo
The Syrian army killed at least 23 civilians today - 17 in the flashpoint southern city of Daraa and six in the central city of Homs, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Nine women and three children were among the 17 killed in a pre-dawn bombardment of a residential neighbourhood of Daraa, the British-based watchdog said.
Dozens more were wounded, some of them seriously, in the city which was the birthplace of the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad's rule which erupted in March last year, the watchdog said.
Mobile communications in Daraa were cut off in the morning, it added.
In Homs, government forces pounded the Khaldiyeh, Jouret Al-Shiyah, Al-Qrabis and Qusayr neighbourhoods with artillery and mortars in an attempt to regain control.
Six people were killed in the bombardment, which lasted from shortly after midnight into the morning, the Observatory said.
Fighting between government troops and rebels has intensified in recent days, particularly in the capital Damascus, where two army defectors were among the seven rebels killed yesterday.
The deaths in Daraa came amid an international outcry over the killings of civilians on Wednesday in an assault on Al-Qubeir, a Sunni farming enclave of some 150 people in the central province of Hama which is encircled by Alawite villages.
The Observatory said that 55 people were killed, among them women and children.
UN truce monitors who visited the village were unable to give a death toll.
But U.N. leader Ban Ki-moon told the Security Council that preliminary evidence showed that troops had surrounded Al-Kubeir and militia entered the village and killed civilians with "barbarity." The government denied responsibility and and blamed foreign-backed "terrorists", as it has repeatedly in the past.
More than 13,500 people have been killed since the uprising erupted, according to the Observatory's figures.