Syrian troops continue pounding rebel city

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Syrian troops have continued shelling residential neighbourhoods in the central city of Homs for the fifth straight day, killing scores of people, activists said.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said “tens of citizens were killed” in the shelling of the neighbourhoods of Bayadah, Baba Amr, Khaldiyeh and Karm el-Zeytoun.

Omar Shaker, an activist in Baba Amr, said his neighbourhood had come under “very intense shelling” by tanks, mortars, artillery and heavy machine guns.

Mr Shaker yesterday said he had counted five bodies in his district.

The violence co-incided with President Bashar Assad’s regime becoming increasingly isolated.

Five European and six Gulf nations have pulled their ambassadors out of Damascus, and the US has closed its embassy in Syria.

Activists say the assault on Homs is the Syrian regime’s final push to retake areas controlled by the rebels.

Assad was bolstered on Tuesday by a visit from Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and the country’s intelligence chief, Mikhail Fradkov. In talks in Damascus, the Russians pushed for a solution to the Syrian crisis that would include reforms and dialogue with the opposition – but not for Assad to step down.

The UN estimates the government crackdown has killed more than 5,400 people since March.