Violence flares as Assad bids to choke off uprising
Activists say four children were among at least 24 people killed by Syrian security forces in Homs and Damascus on Friday as an increasingly isolated President Bashar al-Assad stepped up efforts to end a nine-month popular uprising.
AFP - Syrian security forces opened fire on civilians in several protest flashpoints on Friday, killing at least 24 people including four children, a rights group said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 10 civilians were killed in Homs and one outside the central city, while five died near Damascus, two in Daraa, cradle of anti-regime protests since March, four in the restive city of Hama and two in the northwestern province of Idlib.
The opposition Syrian National Council had earlier Friday warned of the dangers of a "massacre" in Homs, which activists say has been surrounded by government forces for the past two months.
The Britain-based Observatory described the city of Homs "as the capital of martyrs" and said two children, aged 10 and 12, were among the 10 people killed there by security forces on Friday.
A 14-year boy was fatally wounded in nearby Aqrab, the report said.
Five other civilians were killed near Damascus, including one in the protest hub of Douma, the Observer said, adding that a woman and child died in Daraa while four people were killed in Hama and two others, including a 15-year-old boy, died in Maaret Noman, in Idlib province.
Pro-democracy activists had called on citizens to take to the streets in support of a "dignity strike... which will lead to the sudden death of this tyrant regime."
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said on December 1 that at least 4,000 people have been killed in the government crackdown in Syria since March.
President Bashar al-Assad disputed the figure in an interview with the US television channel ABC, insisting that 1,100 soldiers and police had been killed and that many government supporters were among the dead.
"Who said that the United Nations is a credible institution?" Assad asked.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon on Friday hit back at Assad's criticism, insisting that the figure of 4,000 dead was "very credible."
"All the credible information is that more than 4,000 people have been killed by the government forces," Ban said during a trip to Kenya.
"The high commissioner for human rights has made it already clear through all the various sources, very credible sources," he added.