• Damascus dismisses call for joint UN/Arab peacekeepers
• Tanks bombard Homs overnight, say activists
• UN General Assembly to meet to discuss ongoing crisis
• Al-Qaida’s Zawahiri calls on Muslims to topple Assad
8.55am: Good morning and welcome to Middle East Live. Today looks to be another day of bloodshed in Syria and diplomatic wrangling in the corridors of the UN and the Arab League.
Here’s a brief summary of the latest develpments.
•The regime has resumed its tank bombardment of Homs overnight, according to an activist quoted by Reuters who said loyalist troops had been focusing their fire on the Baba Amro and al-Waer districts of the rebellious city. Mohammad al-Hassan said the tank shelling in the former neighbourhood had been “non-stop”.
•The Guardian’s Martin Chulov reports from a rural town on the outskirts of Homs which has been transformed into a Free Syria Army stronghold. He writes:
Less than five months ago, this poor rural town on the outskirts of Homs was a passive place whose residents vented their anger at Bashar al-Assad at weekly rallies; never through the barrel of a gun. An army attack on 23 September changed all that. Now the town is a stronghold of armed resistance in Syria’s west.
•Arab leaders have called for a joint United Nations-Arab peacekeeping force to curb the bloodshed and agreed to end all diplomatic co-operation with Damascus.The Arab League, meeting in Cairo on Sunday, adopted a resolution calling for renewed international efforts to end the 11-month conflict and scrapped its own monitoring mission to Syria. The UN General Assembly is due to meet later today to discuss the ongoing crisis.
•Syria swiftly rejected the call. Syria’s ambassador to the Arab League, Ahmed Youssef, was quoted as saying that Saudi Arabia and Qatar were “living in a state of hysteria after their last failure at the U.N. Security Council to call for outside interference in Syria’s affairs and to impose sanctions on the Syrian people.”
•China has this morning refused to say whether or not it will back the Arab League’s move. Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin refused to directly answer repeated questions, AP reported, saying merely that China backed the Arab League’s “political mediation efforts.”
•Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of al-Qaida, called on Muslims around the world to support the Syrian rebels. The statement- the most explicit attempt yet by the terrorist group to intervene in the ongoing conflict- came in a video posted on extremist websites on Saturday. Zawahiri denounced Assad’s regime as “penicious” and “cancerous”.
•Security is high in and around the capital of Manama ahead of the one-year anniversary of Bahrain’s uprising. Opposition groups are urging protesters to head to a site dubbed ‘Freedom Square’ on the outskirts of the city, which many hope to occupy. The opposition party Al Wefaq has accused the authorities of impsosing a ‘siege’ on Shiite villages around Manama ahead of the anniversary.