An opposition group reports at least 137 killed Thursday
Local observers report on sixth day of shelling in Zabadani
Syrian state TV says armed gangs have begun new attacks in Homs
The president has repeatedly denied attacking civilians
A Syrian opposition group reported at least 137 deaths at the hands of government forces Thursday as President Bashar al-Assad escalated a brutal assault against an opposition that wants an end to his regime.
Thursday marked the fifth consecutive day of attacks on opposition activists and civilians in the besieged city of Homs – Syria’s third-largest city – which has become a flashpoint in the uprising.
The Local Coordination Committees, a network of opposition activists that organizes and documents protests, said that 110 of the deaths were in Homs; 10 were children.
The president has repeatedly denied attacking civilians, saying Syrian forces are targeting armed gangs and foreign terrorists bent on destabilizing the government.
Syrian state television Thursday said armed terrorist gangs fired seven shells into Homs in the early morning, adding that there were no reports of damage.
The station then showed video of people it identified as residents saying armed gangs had fired on their homes and schools with shells and rocket-propelled grenades.
Nearly all other reports from within the country, however, tell a different story. Opposition activists in Homs describe explosions from mortars and tank shells launched by Syrian forces every few minutes, people bleeding to death in the streets for lack of medical attention, and snipers picking off civilians running for cover.
Video reportedly from Homs and posted online shows rubble and the remains of buildings as gunfire is heard in the background.
Medical charities say doctors inside Syria have reported hospitals, clinics, medical staff and patients being targeted.
A doctor in the Homs neighborhood of Baba Amr, Ali, said a group from the Red Crescent recently tried to visit to give medical aid, but their vehicle was attacked and they were forced to turn around.
CNN is not fully naming the doctor for his protection.
Satellite photos of Homs taken this month compared with photos taken in August 2010 show a changed city – the recent photographs swaths of burned-out areas, blownoff roofs and empty streets. The 2010 photos of the same areas show streets packed with vehicles, and crisp lines of buildings, their roofs intact.
Civilians who enter hospitals with what would have been minor injuries if properly treated were left instead to die, said Col. Malek Al Kurdi of the rebel Free Syrian Army, who said he witnessed such a scene in the coastal city of Latakia.
“Al-Assad is now using the tactic of attacking three or more cities at the same time to attempt to deter the revolt,” Al Kurdi said. “Last night the killers attacked Zabadani, Homs, and Talkala at the same time.”