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UPDATE: The Syrian army has resumed its offensive to regain control of the Homs province, bombing opposition strongholds and killing at least 38 people, reports the Associated Press. The renewed shelling comes after the Free Syrian Army had been increasing attacks on army positions, notes Reuters. Now the troops are hitting the key cities in the province with the backing of helicopter gunships.
An activist in a town north of Homs tells Reuters at least 500 rockets and shells had fallen since Saturday, noting the rebel Free Syrian Army “is far outgunned.” Near the border with Lebanon, “the mortars came down… by the dozens,” an activist tells the AP.
Meanwhile, the opposition Syrian National Council named Kurdish activist Abdulbaset Sieda as its new president with the hope that it will help the exiled opposition group unite following months of infighting. In a news conference, Sieda called on all members of the Syrian government to defect. He also responded to criticism that the group doesn't represent all of the country's minorities, saying that “we would like to reassure all sects and groups, especially Alawites and Christians, that the future of Syria will be for the all of us,” reports Al Jazeera.
Amid the increasing violence in Syria, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said he could not rule out international military intervention, warning that the situation was starting to resemble Bosnia in the 1990s, reports the BBC. Hague said that time was “clearly running short” to implement U.N. envoy Kofi Annan’s ceasefire plan.
Saturday, June 9: Overnight shelling in the southern town of Daraa, where the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began 15 months ago, killed 18 people, including 12 women and children, reports Reuters. Overall, 33 people were killed Saturday, according to the Syrian observatory for Human Rights.
The capital of Damascus was engulfed by nearly 12 hours of shooting and explosions that amounted to the worst violence the city has seen since the beginning of the protests against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, notes the Associated Press. It could be a sign that rebels are getting more bold but also that the regime is no longer reluctant to unleash the same kind of force in the capital as it has elsewhere across the country.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that while the “situation in Syria is becoming more alarming,” Moscow has not changed its mind and “will not sanction the use of force,” reports the AP. But Russia will not get in the way of Assad’s departure “if the Syrians agree between each other,” emphasizes the Guardian.
Meanwhile, U.N. observers released the first independent images from Mazraat al-Qubair, where activists say as many as 78 people were killed Wednesday. The U.N. says the town had all the markings of a “horrific crime” and observers could smell burnt flesh. The BBC’s Paul Danahar traveled to the village with U.N. monitors and describes how the attackers carried out a “scorched earth attack,” killing not only people but also all the animals. “If this was an act of mindless violence, the fact that the bodies of the people had been removed suggested a very clear-headed attempt to hide the truth,” writes Danahar.
Friday, June 8: Syrian forces on Friday are reportedly preparing to storm Homs, the hard-hit region of Syria that has been under the control of opposition forces.
The Associated Press reports that a neighborhood of the city was shelled earlier Friday.
Meanwhile, U.N. observers have traveled to the site of an alleged massacre in the Hama province, having previously been denied access to the area. The observers, traveling with journalists, are trying to confirm the massacre, as CBS News reports. Syrian government forces have been the only people with access to the village since Wednesday.
Thursday, June 7: Following word of a new massacre in Syria that has left dozens of more civilians dead, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday said that world cannot expect for the country to be peaceful and stable unless President al-Assad steps down.
Speaking from Turkey where she met with other foreign officials about a way forward for Syria after the all-but-total collapse of the U.N.-brokered peace plan, Clinton called the recent violence "simply unconscionable" and blamed Assad for "doubling down" on his violence crackdown on the opposition, the Associated Press reports. For a new plan to be successful, Clinton said, it must bring an end to Assad's reign.
Still, Clinton suggested that the international community should give "the last amount of support we can muster" to the crumbling peace plan authored by U.N. envoy Kofi Annan, a suggestion, CNN explains, is likely the result of the fact that China and Russia have refused to support any other internationally-accepted plans to end the sweeping violence.
The massacre in Hama province on Wednesday left at least 78 people dead by the count of opposition groups, according to CNN. Pro-government gangs are accused of carrying out the attacks after a village was shelled by Syrian forces. The Syrian regime continues to blame "terrorist" groups for the recent civilian deaths, saying the opposition wants to make the government look bad. Meanwhile, Syria has blocked access to the Hama village, refusing to let in U.N. monitors, as CBS News reports.