Syria Intensifies Homs Attack as Assad Accuses Foreign Sides

Syria’s army escalated its shelling of the city of Homs as President Bashar al-Assad accused “foreign sides” of providing weapons and money to rebels.

The army killed seven people this morning, including a child, during a heavy bombardment of Homs, the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said in an e-mailed statement. The city, under siege for almost three weeks, was hit by 200 tank shells today, while 27 people were killed across the country, Al Arabiya reported, citing opposition activists.

Government forces have intensified efforts to stamp out the rebellion by using mortars, artillery and tanks. The United Nations estimates more than 5,400 Syrians died last year as loyalist forces cracked down on protests that began in March. Twenty people were killed yesterday across the country, according to the Syrian Observatory.

Assad accused unidentified foreign sides of providing weapons and financial support to “armed terrorist groups” as they seek to destabilize Syria, the official Syrian Arab News Agency reported yesterday. The government has blamed the violence on terrorists and foreign provocateurs.

Russia won’t take part in a meeting on Syria being held in Tunis this week, the Foreign Ministry said on its website today. The U.S., the European Union and the Arab League, which backed a UN resolution calling on Assad to step down in favor of an interim government that would hold elections, will attend the “Friends of Syria” meeting. Russia and China vetoed the resolution earlier this month.

Increasing Pressure

The meeting will discuss tightening the economic stranglehold around Syria, U.K. Foreign Secretary William Hague told the BBC on Feb. 19.

The conflict is escalating into a civil war as more soldiers defect and take up arms against Assad’s rule. About 40,000 people have deserted the regime’s 270,000-person security forces, according to a Turkish Foreign Ministry official.

A group of armed rebels killed Mahmoud Ramadan, a businessman in Aleppo, the country’s second-largest city, SANA said. Ahmed Ramadan, a member of the opposition Syrian National Council’s executive bureau, told Al Jazeera television that his brother was killed by security agents for being an opponent of the Assad regime.

The attack came a day after gunmen killed Public Prosecutor Nidal Ghazal, Judge Mohammed Ziyadeh and their driver in Idlib.

To contact the reporter on this story: Glen Carey in Riyadh at gcarey8@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net

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