85 Dead across Syria amid Fierce Clashes in Damascus Suburb
Fresh violence killed at least 56 civilians, 15 soldiers and 14 rebels in Syria on Wednesday after Western powers and the Arab League demanded immediate U.N. action to stop the regime's "killing machine" but holdout Russia said any vote needed more time.
Wrangling at the United Nations came as fierce clashes raged across Syria's powder keg regions between President Bashar al-Assad's security forces and rebel fighters of the Free Syrian Army.
The Local Coordination Committees, the main activist group spurring protests on the ground, said security forces killed 70 people across the country, among them 14 Free Syrian Army rebels, two children and two women.
Thirty-six people were killed in the Damascus suburb of Wadi Barada alone, five in the Damascus suburbs of Irbin, al-Muadhamiya and Rankous, and one in the Damascus neighborhood of Sayyeda Zainab, the LCC said.
Security forces also killed fifteen people in the central protest hub of Homs, eight in the southern province of Daraa, the cradle of the revolt, three in the restive northwestern province of Idlib, one in the mainly Kurdish region of al-Qameshli and one in the central province of Hama, the LCC added.
For its part, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said "at least eight civilians were killed by Syrian armed forces in several neighborhoods of Homs."
The Britain-based monitoring group added that the 15 regime soldiers were killed in fighting with rebel troops in the Bustan al-Diwan sector of the city.
Homs has become a flashpoint of the 10-month revolt against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
The Observatory said three civilians, including a woman and a child, were also killed by security forces in the Damascus region, while sniper fire gunned down a man overnight in Idlib, northwest Syria.
Syria's pro-regime al-Watan newspaper on Wednesday gave a rundown of dozens of deaths on the two sides in clashes in Homs and elsewhere in central Syria over the past two days.
Thirty-seven rebels were killed in the Adawiyeh, Bab Dreib and Dawar Fakhoura districts of Homs, it said.
It said rebel fighters armed with anti-tank missiles, thermobaric grenades, mortars and machineguns destroyed two BMB armored cars and set ablaze a third, "killing all its crew."
Four soldiers were killed in an attack on a checkpoint in Bab Dreib, al-Watan said, while 15 rebels and two members of the security forces died in clashes in Rastan, another town in central Syria.
Activists said the unrest had killed nearly 200 people nationwide over the previous three days.
Analysts warn that the conflict, between a guerrilla movement backed by growing numbers of army deserters and a regime increasingly bent on repression, has largely eclipsed the peaceful protests seen at the start of the uprising.
"It is the beginning of an all-out armed conflict," said Joshua Landis, head of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma.
"We are heading toward real chaos," he added. "The Syrian public in general is beginning to (realize) that there isn't a magic ending to this, there isn't a regime collapse."
On Tuesday, the Free Syrian Army said half of the country was now effectively a no-go zone for the security forces.
"Fifty percent of Syrian territory is no longer under the control of the regime," its Turkey-based commander Colonel Riad al-Asaad told Agence France Presse.
The United Nations says more than 5,400 people have been killed in Syria since the pro-democracy uprising began in mid-March.
But U.N. human rights chief Navi Pillay said on January 25 her organization had stopped compiling a death toll for Syria's crackdown on the protests because it is too difficult to get information.
Damascus does not recognize the scale of the protest movement that erupted in mid-March, insisting it is fighting "terrorist groups" seeking to sow chaos as part of a foreign-hatched conspiracy.