NEW: 15 die in airstrikes on a bakery and hospital in Homs province, opposition says
Monday's death toll reaches 156, including 21 women, across Syria, opposition group says
Government and rebel forces trade blame for an earlier attack on a bakery in Western Syria
Syrian forces have been targeting more gatherings of people recently, an activist says
With the carnage in Syria showing no sign of abating, U.N. peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi met Monday with Syria’s president in hopes of making headway in ending the country’s civil war.
“We have exchanged opinions about the possible steps that can be taken in the future,” Brahimi told reporters after meeting with President Bashar al-Assad.
“The president spoke about his view regarding this situation. I also talked about the meetings I had abroad in several cities with various officials in the region and outside of the region. I also talked about what steps which I see appropriate to be taken to help the Syrian people to get out of this crisis,” he said.
“The situation in Syria remains worrying. We hope that all parties embrace the solution which the Syrian people want and aspire to have.”
Monday’s was the latest in several visits Brahimi has made to Damascus since August, when he was appointed joint U.N.-Arab League special envoy to Syria.
In October, he brokered a cease-fire between the government and rebels, but it disintegrated within hours when heavy fighting erupted once again.
Meanwhile, the Russian Defense Ministry on Monday denied media rumors that Moscow was sending commando units, air defense systems operators and military equipment to Syria, its longtime ally.
“No decisions to send commandos on board Russian warships (to Syria) have been made,” Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov told reporters in Moscow, according to the state-run RIA Novosti news agency.
He said Russia had not sent air defense systems operators to Syria either. “It’s all nonsense … and media speculation,” Antonov said.
Two landing ships that form part of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet – the Azov and the Nikolai Filchenkov – were en route from Novorossiysk to the Syrian port of Tartus, where the Russian Navy has a maintenance base, RIA Novosti reported. The ships were carrying naval infantry units for protection during the voyage, it said.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said Monday that Russia has a plan to evacuate Russian citizens from Syria, if necessary, the news agency reported.
Opposition activists say more than 4,000 civilians have been killed in the past two months.
The bloodshed continued on Monday with at least 156 people, including 21 children, killed across the country, the opposition Local Coordination Committees of Syria said.
The dead include 15 killed in Talbiseh, a city in Homs province, by airstrikes on a field hospital and bakery, according to the opposition group.
A day earlier, scores of people were killed when warplanes bombed a bakery in the western village of Halfaya, opposition activists said Sunday.
An activist who oversaw the burial of many bodies said at least 109 people died.
“There were dozens of dead thrown in the street. The residents were shocked and in a state of fear. It was chaotic,” Mahmoud Alawy said.
Videos posted on social media purported to show the aftermath of the attack. Many bodies had limbs apparently blown off, and others lay bloody in the streets and in rubble strewn over a sidewalk. Uniformed Free Syrian Army soldiers and civilians scramble to pull survivors out of the carnage.
The state-run Syrian Arab News Agency blamed “armed terrorist groups” for the attack on Halfaya and accused them of having shot footage of the incident and blamed the government for the attack.
The town has lacked the ingredients for bread for about a week until an aid group delivered provisions Saturday, Alawy said. Hundreds of people lined up at the bakery on Sunday.
Alawy claimed the government has been targeting large gatherings of people with artillery shells in the recent days since the Free Syrian Army liberated the town from Syrian forces.
British diplomat Alistair Burt said Monday he was “appalled” by what, if verified, “would be the most recent in a long line of human rights violations and abuses committed by the Syrian regime.” Italy’s foreign ministry issued its own statement saying “these horrific images offend human sensibilities and our concept of civilization.”
Many Syrians face food shortages and other needs as winter weather sets in. The United Nations estimates that more than 2.5 million need humanitarian assistance.
To address this crisis, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister and government spokesman Bulent Arinc said the Turkish Council of Ministers would donate 37,000 tons of flour to Syria, effective immediately, the semi-official Turkish news agency Anadolu Agency reported.
Meanwhile, dissidents in the city of Homs said six rebel fighters died Sunday night after inhaling a white gas that had no smell, according to Rami Abdulrahman, director of the opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
“Gas was released and spread in the area after members of the regime forces threw canister bombs,” Abdulrahman said Monday. “… The activists said that everyone who (inhaled) the gas felt severe headaches and some had seizures.”
The observatory called for the International Committee of the Red Cross to investigate the case.
CNN cannot independently confirm government or opposition reports from Syria, as the government has restricted access by journalists.
CNN’s Salma Abdelaziz, Hamdi Alkhshali and Samira Said contributed to this report.