Violence continues amid heightened tension between Syria and Saudi Arabia over its support for rebels
At least 28 people have been killed in clashes between government troops and opposition forces in Syria as the Red Cross continued efforts to evacuate civilians from the besieged city of Homs.
Nine of those deaths occurred in Homs, which is under heavy bombardment by forces loyal to the president, Bashar al-Assad, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Another activist group, the Local Co-ordination Committees, said 36 people had been killed, 17 of them in Homs.
The violence continued amid heightened tension between Syria and Saudi Arabia over the latter’s support for arming forces opposed to Assad’s regime.
The Syrian state-run newspaper Al-Thawra attacked the Saudi foreign minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, for supporting the uprising, accusing him of becoming a partner in the killing of Syrians.
Faisal described the arming of the Free Syrian Army as an “excellent idea” at an inaugural meeting in Tunisia of an anti-Assad group, the Friends of Syria.
Al-Thawra said that the prince, by “rudely” supporting an armed opposition, had become a “direct partner in shedding more Syrian blood”.
“It’s shameful for the vocabulary of the Saudi speech to reach this level … and to announce so rudely support for terrorists,” Al-Thawra said.
Meanwhile, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said it had resumed negotiations with the Syrian authorities and the opposition to enable more civilians to be brought to safety.
The ICRC said the Syrian Red Crescent had evacuated a total of 27 people from Baba Amr on Friday.
Four western journalists, two of whom were wounded in an attack that killed two other foreign journalists on Wednesday, have yet to be extracted from the shattered neighbourhood.
Qatar’s foreign minister, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, has called for the creation of an Arab force to “open humanitarian corridors to provide security to the Syrian people”.
Activists in Homs, a city of more than 800,000 people at the junction of highways leading from Damascus to Aleppo and from the coast to the interior, described Friday’s Friends of Syria meeting in Tunisia as a failure that had brought them no relief.
“I don’t really care about the Tunis conference. All I care about is getting help for my family in the besieged areas,” said Waleed Fares, contacted from Beirut. “The political calculations are not the same as the calculations for us revolutionaries.”
Nadir Husseini, an activist in Baba Amr, a rebel-held district of Homs, said: “They [foreign leaders] are still giving opportunities to this man who is killing us and has already killed thousands of people.”
On Saturday, the state news agency Sana reported the funerals of 18 members of the security forces killed by “armed terrorist groups” in Homs, Deraa, Idlib and the Damascus countryside.
from Damien Pearse, David Batty