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Homs a bleeding wound as medical aid dire

By Moni Basu, CNN
updated 4:45 PM EST, Sun February 19, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • At least 23 are killed across Syria Sunday
  • Syrian forces have attacked Homs for 16 straight days
  • Doctors say interference in medical aid amounts to war crimes
  • China says a peaceful resolution is still possible

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(CNN) -- After 16 straight days of bombardment, Homs is such an incessantly bleeding wound that Syrians speak of it now as though it were a norm. Theirs are voices of resignation as food, medicine, water, electricity dwindle and Bashar al-Assad's forces show no intent of letting up.

"Is today Sunday? Wednesday? Saturday? I honestly don't know all days have become same here in #Homs- they begin and end with shelling #Syria," tweeted @Samsomhom.

Activist Omar Shakir told CNN he is confident the Syrian army is preparing for a massive ground invasion of the besieged neighborhood of Baba Amr, the heart of the revolt.

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"Just like every day, the residents of Baba Amr woke up (Sunday) to the sounds of violent bombing, as al-Assad forces continue to use different types of weapons, bombs, and rockets in their attacks," he said.

Sunday, 10 people in Homs were among the at least 23 killed across Syria, according to the Local Coordination Committees (LCC) of Syria, a network of opposition activists. In the 11 months of Syria's uprising, almost 9,000 people have been killed, the LCC estimates.

"Each day, the bombing gets more intense and the destruction increases," said Dima Moussa, a Syrian activist in Chicago. "There are reports of increased cases of dehydration among children because of the shortage in food supplies. There is also an increasingly severe shortage of medical supplies, while the electricity, water, and communication services outages continue in Baba Amr."

The LCC also offered another disturbing report: at least 295 doctors have been arrested in what it called a fierce campaign to shut down physicians.

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In many places, doctors have been overwhelmed trying to treat the wounded and save lives without proper medicine or equipment. They work in makeshift trauma clinics, clandestinely, for fear of being shot.

A group of Syrian doctors were in the United States this week to urge action that will allow critical medical aid to the injured. The regime's interference, they said, amounts to a violation of the Geneva Conventions that protect victims of armed conflicts.

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"We lost last week two people carrying medicine. They killed them. Just carrying medicine inside," Dr. Monzer Yazji told reporters at the National Press Club in Washington.

Despite the grim accounts from Syria, China said Sunday that a peaceful resolution was still possible.

After meetings between al-Assad and Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhai Jun, the state-run news agency Xinhua said Sunday that Western nations were mistaken in their conclusion that time was running out for talks.

The news agency said "calls for peaceful inter-Syrian dialogue have been largely ignored, intentionally or unintentionally, in Western media reports, which convey the wrong impression that there is an overwhelming consensus among different factions of the opposition forces that they want foreign intervention in their country."

Foreign intervention, it said, would also ratchet up sectarian tensions within Syria and plunge the volatile nation into bloody civil war.

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The West, Xinhua said, "appears to be driven less by their self-proclaimed 'lofty goal' of liberalizing the Syrian people than by geopolitical considerations."

China and Russia snubbed Western nations on the United Nations Security Council with their veto of a draft resolution urging Assad to end the crackdown and give up power.

Syrians expressed extreme disappointment at the global body. Some told CNN that they could not understand how the world could stand by and watch a slaughter.

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Homs residents describe random shelling, rooftop snipers and slow painful deaths due to the lack of medical care. There is not enough respite to even bury the dead.

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Egypt, meanwhile, voiced its disapproval of the violence by recalling its ambassador to Syria, Shawky Ismail, state-run EgyNews.net reported.

The Egyptian Foreign Ministry said it was "an obligation for the Syrian leadership and government to stop the violence and begin to respond to the demands of the people particularly after the events of Homs," EgyNews.net said.

Al-Assad has all along, for the 11 months of the uprising, blamed "terrorists" for threatening the stability of Syria. His regime lashed out again Sunday after the assassinations of a provincial attorney general and a judge in Idlib province.

Attorney General Nidal Ghazal, Judge Mohammed Ziyadeh and their driver were fatally shot on their way to work by an "armed terrorist group," the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency reported.

The opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also acknowledged the deaths, but said the three were killed by "unknown assailants."

Idlib rebels denied responsibility for the assassination, claiming that Ghazal was an opposition sympathizer.

"The regime continues with a series of assassinations of leaders and officials who sympathize with the rebels," said an activist with the opposition coordination committee in Idlib province, who asked not to be named for security reasons.

"What the regime is trying to do is frame the rebels as criminals," the activist said, citing the recent killing of the Red Crescent director in Idlib, Dr. Abdel Razak Jibaro, as an example of this strategy.

Rebels said they kidnapped the son of a top security official in Idlib, Brigadier General Nofal Hussein, in retribution for Ghazal's murder.

Meanwhile, many opposition activists from surrounding villages traveled to the town of Taftanaz Sunday afternoon, to attend Ghazal's funeral, a sign that he was against the regime. Mourners hoisted a framed portrait of the slain man and vowed to kneel only to God.

The Idlib deaths follow the Saturday assassination of Aleppo city council member Jamal al-Bish, who was also killed by an "armed terrorist group," SANA said. And last weekend, SANA reported a Syrian general was gunned down in Damascus -- perhaps the first significant hint that the resistance is spreading to the seats of power.

The capital was tense Saturday after two people were killed at a funeral for three protesters that turned out in a massive expression of anti-government sentiment.

CNN cannot independently confirm reports of violence due to government restrictions on access of international journalists.

Sunday evening, a protest in solidarity with Syria's besieged people erupted in the Damascus suburbs, the LCC reported. Al-Assad, the protesters said, must be held to justice.

CNN's Salma Abdelaziz, Ivan Watson, Kareem Khadder and Holly Yan contributed to this report.

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