Assad Forces Bomb Homs as International Community Seeks Solution

Syrian government forces shelled the city of Homs after killing nearly 100 people yesterday as Russia warned that Syria was sliding into a full-scale civil war.

About 96 people were killed by Syrian security forces yesterday, the Local Coordination Committees, an activist group, said on its website today. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said about 83 people were killed across Syria, including 29 in Homs, where Syrian forces attacked rebel neighborhoods using shells and heavy machine guns, according to an e-mailed statement from the U.K.-based group.

The international community is trying to prevent the 15-month conflict from intensifying as the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad’s government deteriorates into sectarian violence. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned yesterday that the threat of civil war reinforced the “urgent” need for an international conference to pressure both sides of the conflict.

The Syrian National Council, an opposition umbrella group, elected Abdulbaset Sieda as its new leader after Burhan Ghalioun’s resignation last month, according to a statement posted on the council’s Facebook page.

Civil War

United Nations-Arab League special envoy Kofi Annan warned at the UN on June 7 that Syria was headed toward a future of “brutal repression, massacres, sectarian violence and even all-out civil war.” Privately, he told the 15-member Security Council that his efforts to bring about peace can’t be open-ended and international consultations must yield results, according to diplomats who were present and described the remarks on condition of anonymity.

“The civil war has already started,” Theodore Karasik, director of research at the Dubai-based Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis, said in a phone interview today. “It began with the first massacre, and has intensified with the second.”

United Nations’ observers reached on June 8 the site of a reported massacre in Syria, where they found evidence of killings in the now-abandoned farming village of Mazraat al-Qubair. As many as 78 people were killed by forces loyal to Assad in the village set amid corn fields, activists said.

The Qubair attack follows the massacre of 108 people, including 49 children, in Houla May 25 in one of the worst atrocities of the 15-month uprising.

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