Death Tolls Rise as 'Massacre' Continues in Syria

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Calls for increased sanctions, including those targeting individual members of the Syrian leadership, have done nothing to deter the government's quest to crush opposition activists through increasingly violent means. Al Jazeera reported this morning that president Bashar al-Assad has dispatched an elite tank unit to Baba Amr neighborhood of Homs, which opposition forces continue to hold out against he worst of the attacks. The "Fourth Division Monsters," as they call themselves, are commanded by al-Assad's brother. 

The Syrian government appears to be stepping up its attacks, despite a constitutional referendum on Sunday that officals claimed passed with 89.4 percent approval. Reports from activists say that more than a hundred more people were killed in the city on Monday, including the bodies of 64 people that were in a rural areas outside the city. Residents say they belonged to families that were kidnapped and masscared after being stopped at a checkpoint while trying to leave it city.

There were also reports this morning that Paul Conroy and Edith Bouvier, two of the journalists injured in the attack that killed their colleagues Marie Colvin and Remi Ochlik last week, had been safely smuggled out of the country and into Lebanon. However, other journalists on the ground say the reports are erroneous and based on bad information from a French diplomat in Damascus. Miles Amoore of the Sunday Times has urged Reuters and AFP to retract their stories, though other outlets, such as the Guardian, are standing by their stories for now. The journalists were believed to be hold up in the Baba Amr area, as previous attempts by the Red Cross to reach them had been futile. The Red Cross says that it continues to try to distribute supplies and evacuate the wounded from Homs, but has not confirmed any rescues.

The U.N. Human Rights Council has called for an immediate cease fire, though obviously one does not appear to be forthcoming. Given the complete lack of action by Western nations — thanks mostly to the continued defense of al-Assad by China and Russia — once gets the sense that by the time anyone does decide to intervene in Syria it will be too late.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.