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Syrian troops and tanks head toward Homs: reports

After a weekend that saw political assassinations and increasing diplomatic pressure, activists fear an assault on Homs ahead of the February 26 constitution referendum.

Syria homs advance idlibEnlarge
The feet of an unidentified corpse lie near a water canal following an assault by Syrian security forces in Idlib in northwestern Syria on February 18, 2012. AFP/Bulent Kilic (Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images)

BEIRUT, Lebanon — An activist in Syria reports that three columns of troops and tanks are advancing toward the besieged city of Homs, following up on a regime threat to clear the city of insurgents, the Associated Press reported.

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The Local Coordination Committees, a network of activist groups operating in Syria, reported Monday that government forces “started shooting randomly at families” waiting outside a military hospital containing the corpses of people killed by violence. Over the weekend, Damascus saw some of the largest demonstrations since the uprising began last year.

The diplomatic standoff between the West and two countries friendly to Syria — China and Iran — continued to escalate as Iranian warships entered the Mediterranean and docked at the Syrian port city of Tartus. The People’s Daily, China’s government-run newspaper, accused countries that support the Syrian opposition of “stirring civil war," Reuters reported.

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Jordan, Syria's southern neighbor, fears that the violence could lead to an influx of refugees and is "racing to finish a refugee camp," the AP reported.

The LCC estimates that 7,400 people have been killed in the uprising since it began last year. The United Nations stopped estimating the body count in January.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/120220/syrian-troops-and-tanks-head-toward-homs-reports