Despite much-hailed diplomatic pressure from key allies Saudi Arabia and Turkey on the regime of President Bashar Assad bullets are still flying in Syria.
Assad's forces launched a fresh assault on Saturday as at least 20 military tanks rolled into the palm-lined streets of Latakia on Syria's Mediterranean Coast
By Friday afternoon, phone lines and internet lines to Latakia had been largely cut off, but activists said spoke of "intense" gunfire rocking city for at least an hour and a half during the morning, with at least two people killed.
“Heavy gunfire could be heard from 10.30am until midday,” Rami Abdul Rahman, head of the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said.
Rahman also reported that soldiers backed by loyalist gunmen raided villages close to the northern town of Qusair near the Lebanon border, carrying out arrests.
An activist in the central region of Homs told reporters troops backed by two tanks entered the village of Jussiyeh which borders Lebanon, triggering a stampede across the frontier and to neighboring areas. Casualties were reported by no figures were immediately available.
Elswhere, at least 16 protesters were reported killed by Assad gunmen in Deir Al Zour on Saturday.
Casualty reports are difficult to independently verify due to the foriegn media lock-down Assad has imposed across the country.
Offer to Mediate
The Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) called on Syrian authorities to “exercise restraint” in their showdown with anti-regime protesters and offered to mediate in a dialogue.
OIC chief Ekmal Al Deen Ehsanoglu “expressed the readiness of the OIC to play a role in this regard, as he believes that dialogue is the only secure option through which this devastating crisis could be contained.”
More Talk From the West
US President Barack Obama Saturday joined key British and Saudi allies
in demanding that the Syrian regime “immediately” halt its brutal crackdown on protesters.
During a telephone conversation, Obama and Saudi King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz expressed their “shared, deep concerns about the Syrian government’s use of violence against its citizens,” the White House said.
“They agreed that the Syrian regime’s brutal campaign of violence against the Syrian people must end immediately.”
Assad has proven indifferent to criticism from the West backed up only by sanctions targeting specific members of his regime rather than Syria's economy as a whole.
According to rights groups nearly 2,000 have been killed during Assad's ongoing bloody crackdown.