Syria Shelling Restarts In Homs

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SYRIA SHELLING
This image made from amateur video and released by Bambuser Saturday, April 14, 2012, purports to show smoke from shelling in Homs, Syria. (AP Photo/Bambuser via AP video) | AP
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By Oliver Holmes

BEIRUT, April 14 (Reuters) - Forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad shelled the battered Syrian city of Homs on Saturday, killing one person, opposition activists said, in the first such shelling since a ceasefire began two days ago.

The United Nations Security Council is tentatively scheduled to vote on a Western-Arab draft resolution authorising an advance U.N. team to monitor the fragile ceasefire which aims to end 13 months of bloodshed during the uprising against Assad.

It is still unclear if Russia, one of Assad's allies, can be persuaded to support the draft, which calls on Syria to allow access for a team of up to 30 unarmed military observers and threatens to consider "further steps" if Syria does not comply.

"There was shelling last night in the old part of the city, in Jouret al-Shiyah and al-Qarabis. And I have heard eight shells fall in the past hour," Karm Abu Rabea, a resident activist who lives in an adjacent neighbourhood, said.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR)said shelling had killed one person and wounded several people overnight.

Activist Walid al-Fares showed Reuters footage of a thick pillar of smoke rising next to a mosque minaret and said Syrian forces had fired mortar rounds. The crack of gunfire could also be heard.

An opposition source, who asked to remain anonymous as he feared retaliation from his own side, said that army shelling came after rebels ambushed government troops in the city on Friday night.

The Syrian government repeatedly has denied access to journalists, making it impossible to verify the reports independently.



VIOLENCE IN ALEPPO

Syria's state news agency SANA and opposition groups traded blame on Saturday for gunfire in Syria's second city of Aleppo, which wounded three people, according to the SOHR.

In a video, reportedly filmed in the Hay al-Etha neighbourhood of Aleppo, the sound of gunfire and an explosion can be heard as men holding the Syrian revolutionary flag and children scatter from what appears to be a demonstration.

SANA said: "Armed terrorist groups spread in Hay al-Etha, opened fire randomly and attacked public and private property."

The station said "armed terrorists" also killed two people on Saturday in the cities of Deir al-Zor and Deraa and kidnapped an army colonel in the central city of Hama.

"Colonel Mohammed Awad car was intercepted by a terrorist group and he was kidnapped at gunpoint," SANA said.

Activist video showed Syrians in cities across the country involved in small demonstrations on Saturday.

Hopes that the truce would put an end to the bullets that have frightened off peaceful protesters for months were quashed when forces loyal to Assad shot dead five protesters after Friday prayers, activists reported.

They said that security forces came out in strength in many cities to prevent protesters from mounting major rallies against Assad.

The United Nations estimates that Assad's forces have killed more than 9,000 people since the uprising began. Authorities blame the violence on foreign-backed militants who they say have killed more than 2,500 soldiers and police.


REVISED DRAFT

International pressure has grown for Syria to fulfil all its commitments to peace envoy Kofi Annan by withdrawing troops and heavy weapons, permitting humanitarian and media access, releasing prisoners and discussing a political transition.

U.S. and European U.N. delegations had to revise the draft resolution late on Friday after Russia's U.N. ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, told reporters it needed cutting out of "all the things which are not really necessary for this particular purpose".

In the revised draft, wording has been changed and weakened slightly, in some cases from "demands" to "calls upon" or "requests".

The council will reconvene on Saturday at 11 a.m. EDT (1500 GMT).

U.N. diplomats say Russia supports Annan's peace efforts but is working hard to shield Damascus from what it fears is a Western push for Libyan-style "regime change" to dislodge Moscow from its only geostrategic foothold in the Middle East.

Russia and China have vetoed two resolutions condemning Assad's assault on anti-government protesters.

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