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24 dead as violence hits Homs, Syrian towns

Peace envoy Koffi Annan scheduled to meet Russian president on Sunday.

Syria protests 03-23-2012Enlarge
Syrians protest against President Bashar al-Assad's regime following Friday prayers in Binnish, Idlib province, near the Turkish border. Syrian forces bombed towns and clashed with rebels in several regions as activists said thousands staged anti-regime protests. (AFP/AFP/Getty Images)

Two dozen are dead as government forces renewed their siege against rebels across Syria today, Reuters reported.

Activists said snipers, mortars and tanks killed 10 people in Homs. They also accused government forces of targeting neighborhoods indiscriminately.

“The shelling started like it does every morning, for no reason. They are using mortar and tank fire on many neighborhoods of old Homs,” one activist told Reuters.

The violence has forced many to flee.

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Saraqeb in the province of Idlib is also facing intense fighting, activist Nureddin al-Abdo said, according to Agence France-Presse.

Troops and 26 tanks “took up position to split the town in two,” he said, AFP reported.

Both the Free Syrian Army and troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad reported casualties, and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the fighting has killed several civilians.

“Large numbers of residents are fleeing the town,” the leader of the Observatory, Rami Abdul-Rahman, told The Associated Press. “People have been leaving the town for some time, but after today’s attack the process intensified.”

The Observatory also reported violence in Qalaat al-Madiq and Khorbet Ghazaleh, and even near the capital of Damascus.

The continuing clashes come as former United Nations secretary general Koffi Annan – a peace envoy appointed by the UN and Arab League – prepared to meet Russian President Dmitri Medvedev on Sunday, the AP reported.

Russia and China have blocked 2 UN peace resolutions, with Russia saying rebel forces must lay down their weapons for any ceasefire to work.
Annan is also scheduled to fly to China in hopes of ending the violence.

In reaction to the violence, army deserters issued a statement pledging continued resistance, Reuters said.

Brigadier General Mustafa Sheikh issued a video message saying the Free Syrian Army would attempt to unite the rebels.

“In these critical times that our beloved Syria is passing through, it is necessary that all noble people of this nation work to unite all efforts at toppling this corrupt regime,” Sheikh said, according to Reuters.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/120324/24-dead-violence-hits-homs-syrian-towns