May 26 2012
President Bashar Assad's forces have killed at least 50 civilians, including 13 children, in central Syria, activists said.
It is one of the highest death tolls in one specific area since an internationally-brokered ceasefire went into effect last month.
Syrian troops using tanks, mortars and heavy machine guns pounded the area of Houla, a region made up of several towns and villages in the province of Homs, British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Local Co-ordination Committees activist groups said.
Both groups said at least 50 people were killed. The observatory, which has a network of activists around the country, said the dead included 13 children. It added that about 100 people were wounded.
An amateur video posted online by activists showed more than a dozen bodies lined up inside a room. They included about 10 children who were covered with sheets that only showed their bloodied faces. The observatory said in one incident in Houla, a family of six was killed when their home received a direct hit.
Homs has been among the hardest hit provinces in a government crackdown since the uprising against Assad's regime began in March last year. The United Nations said several weeks ago that 9,000 people had been killed in Syria in the past 15 months. Hundreds more have died since.
Attacks such as Friday's, as well as strikes by rebel forces on government troops, have persisted despite the deployment of more than 250 UN observers who have fanned out across Syria to monitor a cease-fire brokered by international envoy Kofi Annan.
Despite the daily violations, UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon said that there was no "plan B" for the Annan initiative.
The northern city of Aleppo, a major economic hub, has remained largely supportive of Assad throughout the uprising but anti-regime sentiment has been on the rise in recent weeks. On Friday, Syrian forces fired tear gas and live ammunition to disperse thousands of protesters in Aleppo calling for Assad to be ousted, killing five people, activists said.
Aleppo-based activist Mohammad Saeed said more than 10,000 people were protesting in the city.