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Assad’s forces execute 47 army deserters, dump their bodies in lake

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Forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad on Saturday killed at least 60 people across the country, including 47 soldiers who attempted defection in a military airbase in Idlib, the Syrian Network for Human Rights reported.

The bodies of the soldiers were then dumped in al-Seeha lake near Idlib by Assad loyalist forces, a local coordination committee from Idlib reported.

Elsewhere in the country, Assad’s forces bombarded parts of the shattered city of Homs anew and blocked the first Red Cross aid meant for civilians stranded for weeks without food and fuel in the former rebel stronghold, activists and aid workers said.

“In an act of pure revenge, Assad’s army has been firing mortar rounds and ... machine guns since this morning at Jobar,” the Syrian Network for Human Rights reported, naming a neighborhood adjacent to Baba Amro, from which Free Syrian Army rebels pulled out this week after almost a month of siege and shelling.

“We have no immediate reports of casualties because of the difficulty of communications,” it said in a statement.

The renewed government assault came a day after U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he had received “grisly reports” that President Assad’s troops were executing, imprisoning and torturing people in Syria’s third largest city.

Concern was mounting for civilians in freezing conditions in battered Baba Amro, where International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) trucks were still being held up by Assad’s forces.

Anti-government activists said they feared troops were keeping out the ICRC to prevent aid workers witnessing a reported massacre of rebels in Baba Amro, which had become a symbol of a year-long uprising against Assad’s repressive rule.

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has said the Syrian president’s crackdown bears the hallmarks of war crimes and his violent repression is damaging the chances of a negotiated peace.

The comments by Syria’s powerful neighbor indicated the latest violence had put Assad beyond redemption in Ankara’s eyes, despite his once-close friendship with Turkey.

“The Syrian regime is committing a crime against humanity every day,” Davutoglu told a joint news conference with visiting Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi.

“I am saying this clearly, after these many massacres and crimes, which have characteristics of war crimes, the Syrian regime closes all doors to dialogue.”

Ankara has been at the forefront of efforts to nature the Syrian opposition since abandoning Assad, hosting the Syrian National Council and sheltering members of the Free Syrian Army.