AMMAN/BEIRUT – At least 28 people were killed in two bomb attacks in Syria's second city Aleppo on Friday while in besieged Homs, opposition neighborhoods endured another day of bombardment by President Bashar al-Assad's troops.
The Aleppo bombings were the worst violence to hit the country's commercial hub since the uprising against the Assad family's 42-year dynastic rule began 11 months ago. Mangled, bloodied bodies and severed limbs lay on the pavement outside the military and security service buildings that were targeted - as shown in live footage on Syrian television, which has consistently portrayed the revolt against Assad as the work of foreign-backed "terrorists."
No one claimed responsibility for the Aleppo bombings but they took place as Assad's forces grow more ferocious in operations to crush the uprising. While some opposition figures accused the government of manipulating events to discredit them. Friday saw more unrest across the country, with activists reporting that security forces opened fire in Latakia, in the town of Dael in Deraa province, and elsewhere to break up demonstrations taking place after weekly Muslim prayers.
In a troubling sign of how sectarian tensions could spill across the region, at least one person was wounded in gunfire and grenade blasts in the Lebanese city of Tripoli, where Sunni Muslim and Alawite communities are divided on the fate of Assad. In the western Syrian city of Homs, where a week of bombardments has killed dozens of civilians and drawn condemnation from world leaders, four people were killed in the opposition-held neighborhoods of Baba Amro and Bab Sebaa, the activist Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Troops also opened fire as worshippers left a mosque in Homs after Friday prayers. Activists in Homs said shelling started up again in the morning and they feared a big push was imminent to storm residential areas of the city that has come to symbolize the plight of those opposing the Assad government. "The carnage in Homs continues and the martyrdom of the Syrian people continues," French Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said. "Not only are we seeing an army that is massacring its own people, but for the Syrian army hospitals and doctors have become systematic targets for repression."
But the unrelenting violence only highlighted the difficulties that Western and Arab powers faced in trying to resolve the crisis in a country with a well-armed military and a key place in the Middle East's precarious strategic balance. Bolstered by Russian support, Assad has ignored appeals from the United States, Turkey, Europeans, fellow Arabs and other governments to halt the repression and to step down.
Foreign ministers of the Arab League, which suspended a monitoring mission in Syria last month because of the violence, will discuss a proposal to send a joint U.N.-Arab mission to Syria when they meet in Cairo on Sunday, a League official said. French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe will meet his Russian counterpart in Vienna on Thursday to discuss Syria, Valero said. The European Union's foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, added her voice to international calls for Moscow, Syria's strongest ally and main arms supplier, to support a United Nations resolution demanding Assad halt the crackdown.– Agencies