Last Updated: Fri Jun 08, 2012 22:30 pm (KSA) 19:30 pm (GMT)

U.N. monitors enter site of Syria massacre as regime troops shell Homs

Syrian troops heavily shelled a rebel-held neighborhood in the city of Homs on Friday. (AP)
Syrian troops heavily shelled a rebel-held neighborhood in the city of Homs on Friday. (AP)

United Nations monitors entered the village of Mazraat al-Qubair on Friday, where activists say around 100 people were massacred, a U.N. source said.

At least 52 people have been killed by the Syrian forces across the country, Al Arabiya reported citing activists at the Local Coordination Committees.

An activist and resident of Mazraat al-Qubair told the Associated Press that the group of observers entered the area, first visiting a cemetery where some of the dead were buried, continuing to the site of the mass killing.

In Geneva, International Committee of the Red Cross spokesman Hicham Hassan told reporters that the humanitarian situation in Syria was worsening.

The U.N. monitors had been trying to reach the tiny village of about 150 residents since Thursday but had been blocked by Syrian forces and residents from nearby villages.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, speaking in New York, said that monitors were stopped at Syrian army checkpoints shot at by small arms.

The Syrian government rebuffed accusations that it carried out the massacre and reported in a statement that there had been only nine deaths.

“A terrorist group committed a heinous crime in the Hama region which claimed nine victims. The reports by the media are contributing to spilling the blood of Syrians,” the statement said.

Opposition groups said the “new massacre” was carried out at by the pro-regime Shabiha militia armed with guns and knives after regular troops had shelled the area, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said in a statement.

But the Syrian regime denied any involvement.

The deaths follow a two-day massacre that began on May 25 near the central town of Houla, where at least 108 people were killed, while most of them women and children who were summarily executed, according to the United Nations.

Both massacres have happened in the presence of United Nations observers, a 300-strong force sent into Syria to observe a ceasefire deal brokered by international envoy Kofi Annan. But the truce was hardly observed.

Homs under heavy shelling

On Friday, Syrian troops heavily shelled a rebel-held neighborhood in the flashpoint central city of Homs as the military appeared to be readying to storm the area, activists said.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Local Coordination Committees had no immediate word on casualties from the shelling of the Khaldiyeh neighborhood in Homs.

Amateur videos posted online showed a small white plane, apparently a drone, flying over Homs.

“Khaldiyeh is being subjected to five to 10 shells a minute in the worst shelling since the revolution began,” the Observatory said in a statement Friday. “It seems they are trying to enter it today.”

Homs has been one of the hardest hit regions in Syria since the uprising against Assad’s regime began in March last year.

The U.N. said several weeks ago that more than 9,000 people have been killed since the crisis began while activists put the number of dead at about 13,000.

Amateur videos showed missiles exploding into balls of flames in the crowded concrete jumble of homes, in cracking, thundering crashes that sent plumes of menacing, heavy gray smoke over Homs.

The videos suggested the attack began at dawn, as birds chirped, roosters crowed, and the sun cast a yellow glow.

In one video, the missiles came in rapid succession, four exploding in less than a minute.

Also Friday, activists reported anti-government protests in different areas, including the northern provinces of Idlib and Aleppo, the southern region of Daraa and the suburbs of the capital, Damascus.

Meanwhile, international envoy Kofi Annan, called for “additional pressure” on Syria as he held talks in the United States.

Opening a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the U.N.-Arab League envoy said he would discuss “how we can put additional pressure on the government and the parties to get the plan implemented.”

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