Violence in Homs a ‘nightmare’ while regime says it has seized men and weapons

The death toll in Homs climbed to more than 40 in four days and a pro-government daily called for dialogue to end the “nightmare.”

According to the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, at least 13 civilians were shot dead by security forces on Monday and Tuesday in Homs, after a bloody weekend that saw 30 people killed in the central city, AFP reported.

Al-Watan led its Tuesday edition with the headline “Nightmare in Homs.”

And on Wednesday it said Syrian troops swept through the central city of Homs, arresting “armed terrorist groups” and confiscating "stockpiles of weapons.”

“A cautious calm has reigned in Homs since Tuesday afternoon after top quality operations by the army, who arrested a number of armed men and seized large quantities of weapons,” it said, adding there were “bloody clashes” that left “soldiers and an officer wounded.”

“Since the outset, everybody has been guarding against a slide towards a sectarian war... which does not distinguish between Christians and Muslims,” the paper said.

“But disagreements can only be resolved through dialogue,” it added.

It said that the “dialogue launched by civic leaders had resumed in a bid to contain dissent and re-establish unity,” in Homs, 160 kilometres (100 miles) north of the capital Damascus.

Activists say more than 1,600 civilians have died in the uprising that began in March. Thousands more have been jailed.

Meanwhile, some 300 people fleeing the unrest in Syria arrived in neighbouring Lebanon late on Monday as the Syrian army boosted its presence along the border area, a local Lebanese official said on Tuesday.

Syria warns foreign ambassadors not to leave capital

Syria warned the American and French ambassadors Wednesday not to travel outside the capital without permission, two weeks after they angered the regime by visiting a city that has become the center of the country’s four-month-old uprising.

If the U.S. and French envoys disobey the order, Syria will ban all diplomats from leaving Damascus, Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said during a lecture at Damascus University.

“We did not evict the two ambassadors because we want the relations to develop in the future and in order for their governments to review their stances toward Syria,” al-Moallem said.

"If these acts are repeated, we will impose a ban preventing (diplomats) from going more than 25 kilometers (15 miles) outside Damascus," he said.

Washington dismissed the statement saying Syria has “something to hide”.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on Syrian authorities “to stop repression immediately” and urged President Bashar al-Assad “to concretely respond to pressing grievances and longer term concerns of the Syrian people,” UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said in New York.

The UN chief said “all sides should refrain from using violence” and reiterated his call for an immediate “inclusive dialogue” and access for humanitarian assistance and for a UN human rights fact-finding mission, Nesirky said.

International pressure has been mounting on Syria, but Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev warned on Tuesday that the international response risks pushing the country towards war.

The Russian leader, who is on an official visit to Germany, said he and Chancellor Angela Merkel discussed “several options” to urge Syria to stop using violence, implement reforms and engage with the opposition, the AP reported.

Diplomatic pressure is mounting on Syria after Qatar, previously a major supporter, shut its embassy in Damascus and the European Union said it was considering tougher sanctions.

Al-Watan Online reported on Thursday that Damascus apologised to Qatar for the events that led to it shutting its diplomatic mission in Syria.

Britain’s foreign minister William Hague says more pressure is needed to stop the government’s crackdown on pro-democracy activists:

“The situation remains very serious and if anything is deteriorating. Certainly there will be a time for further sanctions and we need to be discussing now what those would be.”

The EU has already imposed travel bans and asset freezes on 34 Syrian individuals and entities, but Hague said after a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels “work now needs to start so we can add to that if necessary over the coming days and weeks.”

Huge flag carried through Suweida in continuing ‘loyalty campaign’

Syrian state television on Wednesday showed footage of pro-regime demonstrators carrying a massive flag down the streets of Suweida, a city south of Damascus.

The march is not the first of its kind. In June a huge flag was paraded through Damascus and another in Aleppo.

Syria Today (Syria)