In Syria, scores of people are reported to have died over the weekend in a government offensive on 'protest hubs'. The city of Homs, being the main site of violence, saw hundreds dead throughout the weekend. Today, the bombardment continues; some reports are saying up to 50 people are dead at last count.
Today, Washington has closed the American embassy in Damascus; however, UN members remain divided on the issue of intervention.
US, France, and other European powers are set to impose harsher sanctions on Damascus after Russia and China vetoed another draft U.N. resolution that would have backed an Arab League plan for a non-militarized 'democratic transition'.
Western powers are saying that the veto has enabled Assad's regime to continue its offensive; however, Russia and China both maintain that any intervention in Syria would mirror the mistakes made in Libya, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
The Independent reports:
The bombardment came a day after the United States promised harsher sanctions against Damascus in response to Russian and Chinese vetoes of a draft U.N. resolution that would have backed an Arab plan urging Assad to step aside.
"The tally that we have received from various activists in Homs since the shelling started at six this morning is 50, mostly civilians," Catherine al-Talli of the Syrian National Council told Reuters.
The opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said it had the names of 17 people killed so far, adding it expected the death toll to rise. Arab satellite television channels broadcast live footage showing smoke rising from buildings, with explosions echoing in the background.
"This is the most violent bombardment in recent days," said one activist in Syria who was in touch with Homs residents. Another activist said forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad were using multiple rocket launchers in the attack.
Activists said more than 200 people were killed on Friday night when tanks and artillery blasted the Khalidiya neighbourhood of Homs. It was the highest reported death toll in a single day since the uprising against Assad's rule, inspired by uprisings across the Arab world, erupted last March.
The violence comes as Western powers seek new ways to punish Damascus amid growing outrage over the veto by Russia and China of a UN resolution condemning Syria for its deadly crackdown on nearly 11 months of protest. [...]
Russia and China both defended their vetoes on Monday, with Moscow condemning as "hysterical" the West's angry reaction. [...]
"Some comments from the West on the UN Security Council vote, I would say, are indecent and bordering on hysteria," Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters.
"Such hysterical comments are aimed at suppressing what is actually happening."
Lavrov and Foreign Intelligence Service chief Mikhail Fradkov are due in Damascus on Tuesday, as news reports said the mission could try to push Assad to quit.
China called on both sides to the conflict to halt the violence that has claimed the lives of more than 6,000 people since March, according to rights groups.
Russia said the resolution was biased and would have meant taking sides in a civil war. Syria is Moscow's only big ally in the Middle East, home to a Russian naval base and client for its arms. China's veto appeared to follow Russia's lead.