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Syrian troops shell rebel city as full-scale assault feared, activists say

The former U.N. secretary general, who brokered the peace deal that was to be implemented in Syria, has conceded that the plan is not working. Meanwhile, U.N. monitors attempting to investigate the latest massacre in Syria are facing gunfire. NBC's Ayman Mohyeldin reports.

Updated at 8:45 a.m. ET: Syrian troops on Friday shelled a rebel-held neighborhood in the flashpoint central city of Homs as President Bashar Assad's troops appeared to be readying to storm the area that has been out of government control for months, activists told The Associated Press.

The U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Local Coordination Committees had no immediate word on casualties from the shelling of Hom's Khaldiyeh neighborhood. Amateur videos posted online showed a small white plane, apparently a drone, flying over Homs.


Homs has been one of the hardest hit regions in Syria since the uprising against Assad's regime began in March last year. The U.N. said several weeks ago that more than 9,000 people have been killed since the crisis began while activists put the number of dead at about 13,000.

Also on Friday, the BBC reported that UN monitors had reached a village in nearby Hama province where about 80 people, including women and children, were shot or stabbed. U.N. observers came under fire Thursday as they tried to reach the site in Mazraat al-Qubair, a small farming community of 160 people, mostly Bedouins.

Rebel fighter: Syria army firing on more villages after 'massacre'

Meanwhile, a car bomb exploded in a suburb of Damascus on Friday, killing at least two security force personnel, activists told Reuters.

Rebels in Syria say Assad's forces had slaughtered at least 78 people, including women and children, but Assad's people say it was the rebels and the numbers were far fewer. ITN's Paul Davies reports. Warning: Some pictures in this report are disturbing.

The Syrian Observatory for Human rights said the blast in the suburb of Qudsiya targeted a bus transporting members of Syrian security forces, and was followed by heavy gunfire. 

'Extremely tense'
In Geneva, International Committee of the Red Cross spokesman Hicham Hassan told reporters Friday that the humanitarian situation in Syria was worsening.

"Currently the situation is extremely tense, not only in Houla, not only in Hama, but in many, many places around the country," he said. More than 100 people were massacred last month in Houla; the opposition and the regime blamed each other.

Syrian activists say 100 people were killed by government supporters Wednesday in the province of Hama, including many women and children. Meanwhile, diplomatic efforts to quell the crisis continue to stall. NBC's Ayman Mohyeldin reports.

Hassan the the areas targeted in the latest attacks were the countryside of the northern city of Idlib, suburbs of the capital Damascus, the eastern province of Deir el-Zour and the coastal region of Latakia.

UN: Monitors shot at trying to reach Syria 'massacre' village

The ICRC wants to help 1.5 million people, some of whom need basic assistance such as bread. Hassan said many are also worried about people they have left behind adding that most of the people who fled from Taldaw, a village in the Houla region, were women and children.

"They don't know what happened to the people who remained," he said.

Also Friday, the opposition called for anti-government protests after the weekly noon prayers.

It was still not clear if observers have entered Mazraat al-Qubair, where activists said dozens of people, including women and children, were killed on Wednesday. A team that tried to reach the area on Thursday was shot at.

NYT: US envoy fears Syria conflict will develop into regional sectarian war

Activists said the Sunni village is surrounded by Alawite villages. Alawites are an offshoot of Shiite Islam and Assad is a member of the sect, while the opposition is dominated by Sunnis.

A government statement Thursday on the state-run news agency SANA said "an armed terrorist group committed an appalling crime" in Mazraat al-Qubair, killing nine women and children. It said residents appealed for protection from Hama authorities, who sent security forces who went to the farm, stormed a hideout of the group and clashed with its fighters.

'Doubled down on his brutality'
As reports emerged about the Mazraat al-Qubair -- which would be the fourth such mass slaying of civilians in Syria in the last two weeks -- the United States condemned Assad, saying he has "doubled down on his brutality and duplicity."

U.N. patrols in Syria have on several instances been deliberately targeted with heavy weapons, armor-piercing ammunition and a surveillance drone, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the Security Council, according to a senior U.N. official. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity because Thursday's council meeting was private, said Ban also reported repeated incidents of firing close to U.N. patrols, apparently to get them to withdraw.

11-year-old boy says he survived Syria massacre

International envoy Kofi Annan, whose peace plan brokered in April has not been implemented, warned against allowing "mass killings to become part of everyday reality in Syria."

"If things do not change, the future is likely to be one of brutal repression, massacres, sectarian violence, and even all-out civil war," Annan told the U.N. General Assembly in New York. "All Syrians will lose."

U.N. diplomats said Annan was proposing that world powers and key regional players, including Iran, come up with a new strategy to end the 15-month conflict at a closed meeting of the Security Council that took place Thursday.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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