Syria: At Least 144 Dead as New Constitution Approved
At least 144 people were killed across Syria on Monday, a Syrian activist group told The Associated Press.
The group added that most of the dead were in the embattled opposition stronghold of Homs, which has been under attack by security forces since February 4. They were shot by security forces as they tried to flee the city, the group said.
Meanwhile, AP reported, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent was able to enter the rebel-controlled Baba Amr neighborhood of Homs late Monday. In the neighborhood are two wounded foreign journalists, along with the bodies of two of their colleagues who were killed in an attack on the city last week.
The two wounded journalists, Edith Bouvier and William Daniels, have been trapped in Homs for days. They were wounded in the same government attack that killed American war correspondent Marie Colvin and French photographer Remi Ochlik last Wednesday.
European and American diplomats and aid workers have been trying desperately to find a way to evacuate them, but Red Cross spokeswoman Carla Haddad told AP late Monday that the Red Crescent had not managed to get them out. She did not know whether the group had stopped trying for the evening.
Earlier on Monday, the Syrian government announced that voters overwhelmingly approved a new constitution giving President Bashar Assad 14 more years in power.
According to Interior Minister Mohammed al-Sha'ar, nearly 90 percent voted in favor of the new constitution, which allows for the formation of competing political parties and limits the president to two seven-year terms. Syria has been ruled by the Baath party since it seized power in a coup in 1963 and the Assad family has ruled since Bashar's father Hafez took over in another coup in 1970.
Activists who boycotted the vote are calling it a sham, as are Western governments. China and Russia, both of whom have consistently protected Syria against censure in the United Nations Security Council, welcomed the news of the referendum.