102 killed across Syria as bloody crackdown on opposition continues

Video: The militiamen, known as ‘shabbiha,’ entered the district after loyalist forces fired heavy mortar rounds on the area, killing another 16 people. (Reuters)

At least 102 people have killed by Syrian security forces on Friday morning, the General Council of the Revolution said, a day after 14 members of a Sunni family were killed in the flashpoint city of Homs on Thursday in one of the grizzliest sectarian attacks in the ten-month uprising.

Eight children, aged between eight months to nine years, were among 14 Bahader family members shot or hacked to death in a building in the Karm al-Zeitoun neighborhood of Homs, 140-km (88 miles) north of Damascus, they said.

The militiamen, known as ‘shabbiha,’ entered the district after loyalist forces fired heavy mortar rounds on the area, killing another 16 people, residents and activists in the city told Reuters by phone.

The violence in Syria on Friday included fatalities in the commercial city of Aleppo and a car bomb in the northwest, the Syrian Observatory for Human rights said.

Separately, two attacks killed 12 members of the security forces, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Six were killed in a car bomb targetting a security checkpoint in the northwestern city of Idlib, the Observatory’s Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP, without providing any details on the identity of the assailants.

The other six were killed and five wounded in the southern province of Daraa by deserters who ambushed two buses transporting security personnel, the same source said.

YouTube video footage taken by activists, which could not be independently verified, showed the bodies of five children ─ with wounds to the head and neck ─ in a house. The bodies of three women and one man were also shown.

There was no comment from the Syrian authorities, who have placed severe restrictions on independent media in the country.

“Alawites who had remained in Karm al-Zeitoun mysteriously left four days ago, and the rumor was that they did so on orders by the authorities. Today we know why,” said a doctor in the district who did not want to be named.

“We also have seventy people wounded. Field hospitals themselves are coming under mortar fire,” he said.

Hamza, an activist in Homs said that the attack was “pure revenge” for shabbiha members being killed by army defectors loosely grouped under the Free Syrian Army.

He said Sunni families were fleeing Karm al-Zeitoun to other parts of the city, and several Sunni neighborhoods, such as Bab Sbaa, also came under fire.

Tit-for-tat sectarian killings began in Homs four months ago, following armored military assaults on Sunni areas of the city by forces led by members of Assad’s minority Alawite sect.

And in the rebel city of Hama, also central Syria, where the army launched a major assault on Tuesday, four civilians were killed, including a 58-year-old woman shot dead by snipers, according to the same source.

Elsewhere, one civilian reportedly died in the restive northwestern province of Idlib, and two others were killed in the suburbs of Damascus.

In the southern province of Daraa, cradle of the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, a teenager was killed when security forces fired indiscriminately on a student demonstration in the town of Nawa, the Observatory said, citing residents.

The killings have raised the prospect of the pro-democracy protest movement against Assad turning into a civil war, as his opponents take up arms and fight back against loyalist forces cracking down on demonstrators.

Escalating violence

The head of the Arab League monitoring mission in Syria said Friday that violence there rose “in a significant way” in three days, particularly in the flashpoint cities of Homs, Hama and Idlib.

“The violence in Syria increased in a significant way between January 24 and 27, especially in Homs, Hama and Idlib,” General Mohammed Ahmed Mustafa al-Dabi said in a statement.

“The situation at present, in terms of violence, does not help prepare the atmosphere ... to get all sides to sit at the negotiating table,” Dabi said.

The Sudanese general called for “an immediate end to the violence to protect the Syrian people and clear the way for peaceful resolutions” to the crisis.

The statement came as Syrian forces raided Homs, where dozens have been killed, as Western and Arab nations rushed to unveil a draft UN resolution that would condemn the deadly crackdown that has killed more than 5,400 since March.

Hundreds of children killed

Meanwhile, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) said on Friday that at least 384 children have been killed during 10 months of violence in Syria and almost the same number detained.

"As of January 7, 384 children have been killed, most are boys,” Rima Salah, acting UNICEF deputy executive director, told a press briefing in Geneva.

She said about 380 children have been detained, "some less than 14 years old.”

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