By Ria Novosti
At least 217 people have been killed in a new major army offensive in the central Syrian city of Homs, Al-Jazeera reported on Saturday citing UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The government forces used tanks, artillery and mortars in the early morning attack on the Khaldiyeh neighborhood, a stronghold of the armed opposition to President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
Al-Jazeera cited sources in Syria as saying that the “bombardment of the area started after the opposition Free Syrian Army attacked Syrian army checkpoints and killed about 10 soldiers.”
Activists said several dozen houses were completely destroyed by shelling and the main public hospital was completely overwhelmed with victims forcing people “to set up makeshift clinics in mosques.”
The offensive comes at a time when a new draft resolution on Syria is being considered by the UN Security Council members.
Western media earlier reported that the resolution had been toned down in an apparent attempt to overcome Russia’s objections to an earlier draft.
The new text, submitted by Morocco, no longer explicitly calls on Assad to hand over power and rules out a foreign military campaign against the Syrian regime.
The current draft demands, though, that “the Syrian government immediately puts an end to all human rights violations and attacks against those exercising their rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association.”
At least 5,400 people have lost their lives in the Syrian government’s crackdown on protesters since March last year, according to UN estimates. Syrian authorities blame the violence on armed gangs affiliated with al-Qaeda and say more than 2,000 soldiers and police have been killed.