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UN suspends Syria mission as violence intensifies

Meanwhile, a group of Muslims and Christians have issued a desperate appeal for help escaping the flashpoint city of Homs.

Free Syrian Army fighters during a gunfight in Idlib, northern Syria
Free Syrian Army fighters during a gunfight in Idlib, northern Syria
Image: Anonymous/AP/Press Association Images

THE TEAM OF UN observers working in Syria have suspended their mission and all patrols, amid escalating violence in the country.

Syrian regime forces have shelled rebel strongholds across the country today as a watchdog warned that more than 1,000 families were trapped by the bombardment of the flashpoint city of Homs.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said shelling of Douma, an opposition bastion in the north of the capital Damascus, killed seven people overnight while at least 18 other people died in violence in other regions.

Three women were among those killed in Douma, said the Britain-based Observatory.

Elsewhere, shelling and shooting by regime forces in the Khalidiyeh, Bab Tadmur, Jourat al-Shiah and Safsafa district of the central city of Homs killed five people, the Observatory said.

It warned that more than 1,000 families were besieged in Homs, several districts of which had been pounded intermittently by regime forces for months.

Around 800 Muslims and Christians trapped in the city have issued an emotional appeal for humanitarian agencies to help them escape the bloodshed, a Vatican news agency reported.

‘Let us leave in the name of God’

The appeal, titled Let Us Leave in the Name of God, was made by the residents of several of the city’s central districts.

Women, children, the handicapped and elderly figure among those caught in the crossfire, a source involved in evacuation efforts said, adding that they “are in real danger … and living in panic amid bombardments and fighting.”

Fides said troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad are ready to observe a truce to allow the civilians to leave the area. But the Abu Mann rebel faction opposes an evacuation fearing a deadly offensive on the city centre once it is emptied of civilians, sources on the ground told Fides.

Elsewhere, the Observatory said, four regime troops were killed during the night, one in a blast in Damascus and three in clashes in rebel bastion Rastan, in Homs province.

- (c) AFP, 2012

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