Syria Government Troops Clash With Rebels Before Tunisia Meeting

Syrian security forces clashed with rebels in the central Homs region as the opposition’s international backers meet to discuss stepping up pressure on President Bashar al-Assad.

The army shelled the besieged town of Rastan from the early morning and rebels in the area prevented them from storming the city and destroyed two armored personnel carriers, the U.K.- based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. Government forces maintained their three-week pounding of the Baba Amr neighborhood of Homs, where at least four people were killed today, the group said.

The latest violence comes as U.S., European Union and Arab politicians prepare to meet in Tunisia today to seek ways to oust Assad. Russia and China, which are not attending, have blocked United Nations Security Council resolutions calling for a change of government.

The Arab Organization for Human Rights estimates that more than 8,500 people have been killed in Syria. A UN-appointed commission reported yesterday that there was evidence top-level Syrian officials are responsible for “crimes against humanity and other gross human rights violations.”

Assad has accused unidentified foreign interests of providing weapons and financial support to “armed terrorist groups” as they seek to destabilize Syria.

Syrian troops also attacked Karm al-Zeytoun today and opened fire on protesters in the southern province of Daraa, according to the observatory, while opposition supporters rallied in Aleppo, near the border with Turkey. The government beefed up security in the port city of Latakia and Banias, it said. Al Jazeera television reported that Syrian troops fired on protesters in the Aasali area of Damascus.