The U.N.-Arab League envoy, Kofi Annan, said he had received a reply from Damascus to peace proposals that he laid out at the weekend, and wanted further clarifications.Italy has closed its embassy in Damascus and Russia is calling for a simultaneous cease-fire. Yet, Russia continues plying Assad with weapons. It says that it wont respond with military force to support Assad, but no one would or should expect them to. If that happened, it would further weaken Russian influence in the region.
"But given the grave and tragic situation on the ground, everyone must realize that time is of the essence. As (Annan) said in the region, this crisis cannot be allowed to drag on," his spokesman Ahmad Fawzi said in a statement from Geneva.
Official Syrian media accused "armed terrorists" of massacring 15 civilians, including young children, in a pro-government district of the central city of Homs, which has been the focal point of much fighting in recent weeks.
In the southern city of Deraa, cradle of what began a year ago as a peaceful uprising but has gradually evolved into an armed insurgency, opposition activists said government troops had raked buildings with anti-aircraft fire.
There were also reports of a tank bombardment on the village of al-Janoudieh in the northern Idlib region.
Reports from Syria cannot be independently verified as the authorities deny access to rights groups and journalists.
The United Nations says Assad's forces have killed more than 8,000 people in their drive to crush the uprising. Its refugee agency said on Tuesday that some 230,000 Syrians had fled their homes during the past 12 months, of whom around 30,000 have sought safety abroad.
Amnesty International said in a report that Syrians detained during the uprising had suffered widespread torture that amounted to a crime against humanity.
Homs remains under assault, and civilians are taking the brunt of the casualties despite claims to the contrary from Assad's propagandists.
Meanwhile, Assad and his flacks are hoping to get someone to pay attention to Israel so that Assad can continue brutalizing the Syrian people - people who are demanding that Assad step aside and end his totalitarian regime's grip on the country. Thousands have been killed in the past year, tens of thousands more have been detained and/or disappeared by the regime's security forces.
Assad's loyalists have no problems sanitizing entire areas where rebel forces have held out - Baba Amr was pummeled and while structures are still standing, the neighborhood is wrecked. Thousands were displaced as a result. Hundreds of thousands of Syrians are internally displaced because of the violence, and thousands more are trying to get out of the country by any means necessary. That can involve trying to cross minefields set up by Assad's forces to keep them in.
War crimes one and all, but Assad figures that he can play the Israel card to avoid further scrutiny by the rest of the world. Too bad for him that it's not working. People are paying attention to what his regime is doing, and it's the Arab League that are among those who are putting the pressure to his regime.