President Bashar Assad’s forces killed at least 50 civilians, including 13 children, in central Syria on Friday, activists said.
The Associated Press reported that the death toll in the attack was one of the highest in one specific area since an internationally-brokered cease-fire went into effect last month.
According to the report, Syrian troops using tanks, mortars and heavy machine guns pounded the area of Houla, a region made up of several towns and villages in the province of Homs.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Local Coordination Committees activist groups told AP that at least 50 people were killed. The Observatory, which has a network of activists around the country, said the dead included 13 children. It added that about 100 people were wounded.
An amateur video posted online by activists showed more than a dozen bodies lined up inside a room. They included about ten children who were covered with sheets that only showed their bloodied faces.
The Observatory said that in one incident in Houla, a family of six was killed when their home received a direct hit.
Homs has been among the hardest hit provinces in a government crackdown since the uprising against President Bashar Assad’s regime began in March of last year. The UN said several weeks ago that 9,000 people have been killed in Syria in the past 15 months. Hundreds more have died since.
Attacks like Friday’s, as well as strikes by rebel forces on government troops, have persisted despite the deployment of more than 250 UN observers who have fanned out across Syria to monitor a cease-fire brokered by international envoy Kofi Annan.
Meanwhile on Friday, tens of thousands of activists took to the streets of Aleppo and Idlib, braving the gunfire of Syrian troops, as at least 28 people were killed across the country. The latest violence came as Annan finalized plans to return to Damascus.
For the first time in the region, helicopter gunships fired on rebel-controlled mountain villages in the Latakia area of northwestern Syria, near the Turkish border, wounding at least 20 people.
Last Friday, Syrian forces fired on protesters holding the largest opposition marches yet in Aleppo, Syria’s biggest city that had largely remained supportive of President Bashar Assad throughout the 15-month uprising.
Anti-regime protests in Aleppo have been growing since a raid on dormitories at Aleppo University on May 3 killed four students and forced the temporary closure of the state-run school.
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