35 Killed as Syrian Army Pounds Rebel-held Towns
[An Nahar] Syrian forces pounded rebel-held towns Tuesday and blasted a bridge used by refugees to escape to Leb, killing 35 people across the country, monitors said.

Twenty-three people were killed in the central province of Homs, seven in the southern province of Daraa, four in the northwestern province of Idlib and one in Damascus
...Capital of the last remaining Baathist regime in the world...
province, the Local Coordination Committees, the main activist group spurring protests on the ground, said.

Regime troops launched a major assault on Herak, a town in the southern province of Daraa, a monitoring group said.

A girl was rubbed out there by a sniper and five soldiers were killed in festivities with the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA), the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

"Large military forces, including tanks and armored troop carriers, launched an assault on Herak," the Britannia-based monitoring group added, citing residents.

And in Maaret al-Numan, a town in the northwestern province of Idlib, a 23-year-old man was rubbed out by sniper fire, according to the Observatory. Security forces also killed two others in Idlib.

After fleeing the battered Baba Amr district in the flashpoint central city of Homs, the rebels regrouped in nearby Rastan, which the Observatory and activists said came under artillery fire on Sunday and Monday.

Rastan, bombed intermittently since February 5, is located on the motorway linking Damascus to northern Syria.

Qusayr, another town in Homs province that has fallen mainly under rebel control, was also targeted by heavy bombardment, according to Anas Abu Ali, an official with the FSA.

Observatory chief Rami Abdul Rahman told Agence La Belle France Presse in Beirut that Syrian forces bombed a bridge used to evacuate the maimed and refugees to Leb from Homs province.

The violence comes amid a flurry of diplomatic initiatives launched separately by the Arab League
...an organization of Arabic-speaking states with 22 member countries and four observers. The League tries to achieve Arab consensus on issues, which usually leaves them doing nothing but a bit of grimacing and mustache cursing...
, the United Nations
...a formerly good idea gone bad...
, Russia and China -- all aimed at ending the year-long tumult in Syria.

The International Committee of the Red Thingy, meanwhile, was negotiating with Syria authorities for a fourth day to be allowed to deliver aid and evacuate the maimed from Baba Amr.

Rebel fighters retreated from Baba Amr last Thursday in the face of a ground assault by Syrian forces after almost a month of shelling, with fleeing residents giving terrifying accounts of atrocities committed by government troops.

The ICRC and the Syrian Arab Red Islamic Thingy Society have since sought in vain permission to enter the Homs district with a seven-truck aid convoy.

With the convoy stalled, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan urged the international community on Tuesday to put pressure on Damascus to allow the delivery of relief supplies to civilians.

In New York, U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos said she had been granted permission by Damascus to go to Syria from Wednesday to Friday.

The aim of the visit, she said, would be "to urge all parties to allow unhindered access for humanitarian relief workers so that they can evacuate the maimed and deliver essential supplies."

The violence in Homs province has sent more than 1,500 Syrian refugees, mainly women and kiddies, fleeing across the border into Leb in the past few days, U.N. and Lebanese officials said.

With diplomatic efforts so far stymied, U.S. Senator John Maverick McCain
... the Senator-for-Life from Arizona, former presidential candidate and even more former foot soldier in the Reagan Revolution...
, an influential Republican, called on Monday for American air strikes on Syrian forces to protect population centers and create safe havens.

At the request of the Syrian opposition, he said "the United States should lead an international effort to protect key population centers in Syria, especially in the north, through air strikes on Assad's forces."

On Wednesday, former U.N. chief Kofi Annan is to launch a mission aimed at Assad to silence the guns blamed for thousands of deaths since anti-regime protests broke out last March.

He is to hold talks with Arab leaders in Cairo before he heads to the Syrian capital on Saturday as joint special envoy for the United Nations and the 22-member Arab League.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, meanwhile, said he was to meet his Arab counterparts on Saturday in Cairo, where the League has its headquarters, to discuss Moscow's ally Syria.

China's former ambassador to Damascus, Li Huaxin, is due in Syria on Wednesday for meetings with the government and other parties.

La Belle France, meanwhile, was to close its Damascus embassy on Tuesday, the foreign ministry said, after President Nicolas Sarkozy
...23rd and current President of the French Republic and ex officio Co-Prince of Andorra. Sarkozy is married to singer-songwriter Carla Bruni, who has a really nice birthday suit...
announced the move to protest the Syrian regime's bloody crackdown.

Posted by: Fred 2012-03-07