Syrian activists: 200 dead in gov't assault

A Syrian forces tank moving along a road during clashes with the Syrian army defectors, in the Rastan area in Homs province, central Syria, Jan. 30, 2012. AP Photo

Updated 9:48 p.m. ET

BEIRUT - Syrian activists say an evening assault by government forces in the central city of Homs has killed 200 people and wounded hundreds.

The offensive was reported in Homs, which has been one of the main flashpoints of opposition to the regime during the uprising that began nearly 11 months ago. The reports were centered in the Khaldiyeh neighborhood.

Two main opposition groups said 200 people were killed in the assault late Friday and early Saturday. The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Local Coordination Committees cited witnesses on the ground.

The LCC said the regime used tanks and heavy machine-guns.

The reports could not be independently confirmed.

Reuters earlier reported that about 128 people have been killed, citing the Syrian Observatory For Human Rights.

"At least 128 people were killed in Homs, of them 112 were killed in Khalidya (district of Homs)," Rami Abdulrahman of the U.K.-based group, told Reuters based on witnesses.

The shelling is the latest violence in the 11-month crackdown by the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad against pro-democracy protesters. The United Nations estimated in January that at least 5,400 people have been killed, including soldiers who defected and those who refused orders to fire on civilians. But the U.N. has been unable to update its tally since because the chaos in the country has made it difficult to cross-check the latest figures.

The Syrian conflict has grown more militarized in recent months as army defectors have joined the uprising against Assad and formed a guerrilla force. The armed resistance has in turn provoked a heavier regime assault on areas where the defectors are fighting.

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Earlier Friday, Human Rights Watch said in a new report that it has documented at least 12 cases of children as young as 13 detained under "inhumane" conditions and tortured, as well as children shot in their homes or on the street.

The U.N. Security Council will meet Saturday morning to take up a much-negotiated resolution on Syria, said a diplomat for a Western nation that sits on the council.

The diplomat spoke Friday on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to be quoted by the media.

The move toward a vote came after Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke by telephone with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in an effort to overcome Russian opposition to any statement that explicitly calls for regime change or a military intervention in Syria.

The U.S. and its partners have ruled out military action but want the global body to endorse an Arab League plan that calls on Assad to hand power over to Syria's vice president.

Russia's deputy foreign minister, Gennady Gatilov, said Friday that Moscow could not support the resolution in its current form. But he expressed optimism that an agreement could be reached, according to state news agency RIA Novosti.

Assad's regime has been intensifying an assault against army defectors and protesters. The U.N. said weeks ago that more than 5,400 people have been killed in violence since March. Hundreds more have been killed since that tally was announced.

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