The Observatory and the Local Coordination Committees, an umbrella group of activists, both said the death toll in Homs was at least 35, but the reports could not be confirmed. The groups cited a network of activists on the ground in Syria.The casualties apparently occurred when a building came under heavy mortar and machine gun fire.
The Observatory said 29 people were killed in the religiously mixed Karm el-Zaytoun neighborhood of Homs on Thursday, including eight children, most of them when a building came under heavy mortar and machine gunfire.
Residents spoke of another massacre that took place when shabiha — armed regime loyalists — stormed the district, slaughtering residents in an apartment, including children.
"It's racial cleansing," said one resident of Karm el-Zaytoun, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal. "They are killing people because of their sect," he said.
That comes just days after the head of the Muslim Red Crescent was killed (that's the Muslim humanitarian group equivalent to the Red Cross).
Meanwhile, there are indications that Hamas leader Khalid Meshaal has left Syria and is staying elsewhere as the terror group assesses the situation and is considering leaving the country for safer locales (Egypt, Turkey, and Qatar being the alternatives):
Analysts say Meshaal was also embarrassed by Assad's violent crackdown, with more than 5,000 people reported killed. Many victims of the security forces have been Sunni Muslims allied to the Muslim Brotherhood, whose support Meshaal relies on.Elsewhere in Syria, the Free Syrian Army (the opposition militia) is claiming that they've captured a group of Iranian soldiers that have been operating at the behest of Assad. That conflicts with the Iranian account, which claims that these individuals are engineers who were kidnapped by unknown assailants. Separately, several other groups of Iranians have been taken by unknown groups inside Syria - some purportedly making their way through the country on pilgrimages.
Assad is backed mainly by his minority Alawite sect and other minorities.
The sources said Meshaal would not publicly shut down the political headquarters of Hamas in Syria, where it has long been hosted by Assad and by his father before him.
"In the past month he may have only stayed five days in Syria and the rest he spent in Qatar, Turkey and Egypt," said the diplomat. "But he did not close the headquarters in Syria in full and there are some Hamas officials still there."
"Our belief is that Hamas will not announce a departure from Syria even if it happened," the diplomat added.