Middle East

Syria: Homs military attacks continue, say activists

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Media captionThe Syrian government has been accused of continuing a deadly crackdown on anti-government protesters, as John Simpson reports.

Syrian military forces have resumed attacks in the city of Homs, activists say, despite agreeing to withdraw from urban areas under an Arab League deal.

Tanks have been shelling parts of the city, and medics at the main hospital told the BBC more than 100 bodies had arrived in the past two days.

Activists say at least 19 people were killed in protests in Homs and other cities on Friday.

Wednesday's Arab League deal had called for an end to suppression of protests.

On Friday, Syrian state TV announced an amnesty for anti-government fighters.

"The interior ministry invites those who carry arms, who sold them, distributed them, bought them or financed their purchase and who have not committed any murder to turn themselves in and surrender their weapons to the nearest police station," it said.

'Machine-gun fire'

Homs has been a focus of opposition to President Bashar al-Assad since the uprising against him began in March.

Local human rights groups report continued operations against opposition strongholds, including artillery bombardments of residential areas.

The killings over the past two days have mostly been in the Baba Amr district. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights group said the area had been "raked with heavy machine-gun fire" on Friday, with a number of deaths.

It also reported that troops had opened fire in the city's Ghuta neighbourhood, killing two civilians and wounding four.

At least seven protesters were also killed by troops in the town of Kanaker, outside Damascus, the Observatory said.

One Kanaker resident told Reuters by telephone: "Lots of people fell on the ground with bullet wounds and we are afraid some will not make it."

Another two protesters were killed by security forces in the city of Hama, 240km (155 miles) north of Damascus, and one in Saqba, near the capital, activists said.

Journalists are unable to move around freely in Syria and information is hard to verify independently.

Protests were also reported in Damascus, Latakia, Deraa, Deir el-Zour and other smaller cities on Friday.

The Arab League announced on Wednesday that the Syrian government had agreed to begin a dialogue with the opposition within two weeks.

Officials in Damascus said they would release all political prisoners and allow journalists and rights groups to monitor the situation.

Opposition groups in Syria accused Mr Assad's government of trying to buy itself time.

France on Friday said Syria was breaking its promises to the Arab League.

French foreign ministry deputy spokesman Romain Nadal said: "The continuing repression can only strengthen the international community's doubts about the Syrian regime's sincerity to implement the Arab League peace plan."