A Syrian activist group said Monday that 135 people have been killed across the country, including 64 who died while fleeing an embattled area in the central city of Homs.
The high casualty figures reported by the Local Coordination Committees, one of the main Syrian activist groups, demonstrated the increasingly bloody toll the conflict is taking on Syria
where President Bashar Assad
is trying to suppress an uprising of Syrians demanding he step down.
It was not immediately clear when the people died or how.
The group said 64 of those who died were trying to flee shelling in the Homs neighborhood of Baba Amro when they were killed at a security checkpoint in the city's Abil area.
"Intense shelling started on Khalidiya, Ashira, Bayada, Baba Amro and the old city at dawn," opposition activist Mohammed al-Homsi told Reuters from the city. "The army is firing from the main thoroughfares deep into alleyways and side streets."
Funeral for Idlib's dead (Photo: AFP)
The International Committee of the Red Cross says a team from its Syrian sister organization has been able to enter Baba Amro in an attempt to deliver medical supplies and evacuate the wounded.
The dead included three women, three children and four soldiers, the group said. It did not specify whether the soldiers had defected to the opposition. The death tolls could not be independently verified.
Meanwhile, the Syrian Interior Ministry said the reformed constitution, which could keep Assad in power until 2028, had received 89.4% approval from more than 8 million voters.
Syrian dissidents and Western leaders dismissed as a farce Sunday's vote, conducted in the midst of the country's bloodiest turmoil in decades, although Assad says the new constitution will lead to multi-party elections within three months.
Officials put national voter turnout at close to 60%, but diplomats who toured polling stations in Damascus saw only a handful of voters at each location.
Syrian rebel in Homs (Photo: AP)
The outside world has proved powerless to halt the killing in Syria, where repression of initially peaceful protests has spawned an armed insurrection by army deserters and others.
Qatar joined Saudi Arabia in advocating arming Syrian rebels, given that Russia and China have twice used their vetoes to block any action by the UN Security Council.
"I think we should do whatever is necessary to help them, including giving them weapons to defend themselves," Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani said in Oslo.
Arab countries should help lead a military force to provide a safe haven for anti-Assad forces inside Syria, he added.
Assad says he is fighting foreign-backed "armed terrorist groups" and his main allies - Russia, China and Iran - fiercely oppose any outside intervention intended to add him to the list of Arab autocrats unseated by popular revolts in the past year.
China called US policy in the region "super-arrogant" and Russia's Vladimir Putin warned against any action that bypassed the UN Security Council.
International "impotence" was described by French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe as "hugely frustrating". But, accusing the Syrian authorities of "massacres" and "odious crimes", he said Paris would keep on pressing for action at the Security Council and warned Assad that he would be brought to justice.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton predicted that Assad's regime will eventually fall when enough soldiers, business leaders and minorities desert him.
"(…) I cannot tell you when that will happen," Clinton said in an interview Sunday with Morocco's 2M television. "But the Syrian army, which is largely a conscript army, is not going to continue to carry out these brutal assaults on the Syrian people."
AP, Reuters and AFP contributed to the report