By Al Arabiya with Agencies
Syrian forces pounded Homs on Monday as they pressed their campaign against rebel strongholds in the city and as at least 40 people were reported killed across the strife-torn country, a watchdog said.
Monday’s casualties come a day after 67 people were killed nationwide, including 15 in Homs province, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Activists said artillery had targeted Douma, a town 15 km (9.3 miles) outside the capital Damascus. The town has for weeks been under the partial control of rebels who have joined the 15-month-old revolt against President Bashar al-Assad.
“We can’t even accurately count the dead because we have so many injured people to treat, there’s no time to think about anything else,” an activist in Douma who called himself Ziad told Reuters.
“The army attacks all the time. They have tanks, missiles, mortars, and artillery. Even helicopters have fired on us. People can’t escape because the army is surrounding the town.”
“The army has escalated its operations in Douma in recent days,” anti-regime activist Mohammad Doumani told AFP via Skype. “Regime forces have destroyed homes, farms and many mosques.”
The Local Coordination Committees (LCC), grouping opposition activists on the ground, said Qoudsaya was shelled heavily, and that snipers were firing at anything that moved.
Fares Mohamed, an LCC member in Zabadani northwest of Damascus, told AFP by email that Syrian forces had “imposed a suffocating blockade” around Qoudsaya and a nearby town.
He said the shelling began after an anti-regime demonstration in Qoudsaya. Mohamed said “huge military reinforcements” had arrived and that the wounded could not be treated because the shelling and sniper fire was so intense.
Another civilian was killed in Tafas as regime forces stormed the town.
And in central Hama province, two young sisters were killed when Qalaa al-Madiq was shelled before dawn, the Observatory said, adding that another civilian was shot dead at a regime checkpoint.
In the northern province of Aleppo, unidentified gunmen killed a woman, it said.
Regime forces backed by aircraft also pounded for more than seven hours overnight a region known as the Kurdish Mountain in the northwest province of Latakia, forcing many residents to flee, the watchdog said.
Two civilians were also shot dead in the coastal province.
In the northwestern province of Idlib two civilians were killed, the Observatory said.
Ten regime troops were also killed in clashes overnight and on Monday, the watchdog said.
The British-based Observatory claims violence in Syria has killed more than 14,400 people since the uprising began in mid-March 2011.
In a sign it fears Syria’s conflict could escalate further, an unnamed Russian naval source said Moscow was preparing to send marines to Syria in the event it needed to protect personnel and remove equipment from its naval facility in Syria’s Mediterranean port of Tartous, according to the Interfax news agency.