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      Syrian Opposition Cries Out for Help in Homs

      Syria's opposition issues cry for help on as regime forces pound Homs, leaving hundreds trapped with little food or water.
      By Elad Benari
      First Publish: 6/18/2012, 7:13 AM

      Smoke rises from Homs
      Smoke rises from Homs
      Reuters

      Syria's opposition issued a cry for help on Sunday, as regime forces pounded rebel bastions in the Homs province and activists warned that hundreds of civilians were trapped with little food or water.

      AFP reported that the opposition Syrian National Council (SNC), meeting in Istanbul, also demanded the deployment of armed peacekeepers, a day after a UN observer mission said it was suspending operations because of the relentless bloodshed.

      The mission chief, General Robert Mood, meanwhile, urged the warring parties to “allow women, children, the elderly and the injured to leave conflict zones, without any preconditions and ensure their safety.”

      “I call on the parties to take immediate action to ease the pain of Syrians trapped in the violence and the UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) stands ready to monitor their release, once the decision is taken,” Mood said, according to AFP.

      Violence cost at least 37 lives on Sunday, the report said, taking the overall weekend death toll across the country to 108, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

      Regime forces pounded rebel areas of the Old City of Homs and outlying towns, including Rastan and Talbisseh, in a bid to crush armed insurgents, the watchdog group said, with deadly violence also reported in other parts of Syria.

      Anti-regime activist Nidal al-Hakim told AFP that many people were “critically” wounded and there is a shortage of medication, while authorities have cut off electrical supplies and water from the besieged city.

      Abu Bilal, another activist speaking from the Old City of Homs, said the regime assault on several parts of the central city was “suffocating.”

      “They are shelling us all the time. There's very little food and water, and we're running out of medication,” he told AFP.

      Meanwhile, The Associated Press announced on Sunday that a video journalist who was covering the Syrian uprising for the news agency was wounded while filming clashes between rebels and the Syrian army.

      Ahmed Bahaddou, a Belgian citizen, was struck in the shoulder by a bullet during a firefight Friday in northern Syria and was evacuated Sunday to London, AP said. He was admitted to a hospital in stable condition, and the wound was not considered life threatening.

      The United Nations announced Saturday that it won't send additional monitors to Syria; the international body decided to suspend the mission, saying it's just too dangerous.

      The observer teams who have already been planted in the civil war-torn country have hunkered down, unable to conduct patrols.

      The decision was made primarily to protect the monitors, who travel around Syria unarmed and have been repeatedly attacked by government forces. As a result, the teams are unable to fulfill their mandate to verify events on the ground, other than to confirm the incessant violence carried out by those who attack them.

      France announced last week that its government is considering providing communications equipment to the opposition forces in order to strengthen their efforts without supplying arms.

      On Friday, the European Union announced a new round of sanctions against Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime.

      As part of the sanctions, the EU imposed a ban on exporting to Syria some luxury items or “dual use” goods that could be used for internal repression. A statement by the European Council listed some prime examples: caviar, shoes and clothing costing more than $750; gems and pearls, and cars costing more than $31,400. Also banned are gas masks and certain chemicals and toxins.