At least 92 people have been killed across Syria after security force shelling intensified in the rebel-held Baba Amro district in the city of Homs, the Syrian General Revolutionary Council said on Wednesday.
Baba Amro has been under sustained bombardment since Feb. 3. Several hundred people have been killed, activists said.
The Syrian military has redoubled its attacks on Homs in the past few days, aiming to retake neighborhoods that have come under control of the opposition and armed rebels - many of them military defectors. The seizure of territory and nearly daily clashes between the rebels and regime forces have pushed Syria to the brink of all-out civil war.
Meanwhile, at least 60 bodies, victims of earlier Syrian security force shelling during the unrest, were found in Baba Amro on Wednesday, according to Al Arabiya TV.
The administration of U.S. President Barack Obama opened the door slightly Tuesday to international military assistance for Syria’s rebels, with officials saying new tactics may have to be explored if President Bashar Assad continues to defy pressure to halt a brutal crackdown on dissenters that has raged for 11 months and killed thousands.
The White House and State Department said they still hope for a political solution. But faced with the daily onslaught by the Assad regime against Syrian civilians, officials dropped the administration’s previous strident opposition to arming anti-regime forces. It remained unclear, though, what, if any, role the U.S. might play in providing such aid.
The opposition Syrian National Council (SNC) said it was coming to the view that military intervention was the only solution to the crisis.
“We are really close to seeing this military intervention as the only solution. There are two evils, military intervention or protracted civil war,” Basma Kodmani, a senior SNC official, told a press conference in Paris.
The SNC will also urge Egypt, at a “Friends of Syria” meeting due to be held in Tunis on Friday, to restrict access to the Suez Canal to any ships carrying weapons to the Syrian regime
Iran - Syria's other strong ally - sent two warships through the Suez Canal on Tuesday on their way back from the Syrian port of Tartus. The ships had reportedly docked in Syria over the weekend on a mission to provide training for Syria’s naval forces, according to Iranian media reports.
Calls for boycott
Meanwhile another main opposition group on Wednesday called on Syrians to boycott an upcoming referendum on a new constitution, saying it was an attempt by Assad to cover up a crackdown.
“The regime is using this proposal to cover up for its massacres. A constitution cannot be prepared unless all political powers and societal groups in Syria participate in drafting it through an elected assembly,” the Local Coordination Committees said in a statement.
Assad has called the referendum for next Sunday and if passed, multi-party elections will be held within 90 days.
Russia, which has emerged as Assad’s closest international ally, on Wednesday expressed “serious concern” about the humanitarian situation in Syria and said it backed an International Committee of the Red Cross call for a daily two-hour truce that could provide help to civilians.
“We are seriously concerned by incoming reports about the difficult humanitarian situation in Syria,” said Russian foreign ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich.
“We actively support the efforts of the International Committee of the Red Cross” to establish a truce, Lukashevich told a weekly press briefing.
“It is presumed that this pause will be used to provide humanitarian assistance to the nation’s population.”
The ICRC has been in talks with Syrian authorities and rebels to try to agree a temporary halt to the fighting so it can get access to the worst affected areas.
Lukashevich said Russia had submitted to the U.N. Security Council a proposal for U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to send a special envoy to Damascus to negotiate the provision of humanitarian assistance to those who need it most.
Russia has so far refused to single out Assad for criticism and on Wednesday again called on both his forces and the armed opposition to end the violence.
“We once again urge all Syrian sides to end the violence. This concerns both the official authorities and the opposition, which must disassociate itself from extremists,” Lukashevich said.