Syrian Forces Shell Homs, Residents Stay Inside

Activists say dozens of people were killed in the Syrian town of Homs Monday when government troops opened fire with tanks and machine guns. More than a dozen others were killed elsewhere. Renee Montagne talks to Omar Shakir, an activist in Homs, who's been posting updates on Twitter.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

When the U.S. closed its embassy in Syria yesterday, it was part of a cascading series of events. Syrian artillery shells and rockets fell on rebel-held areas. Britain, France, Italy, Saudi Arabia and five other Gulf states recalled their ambassadors today.

INSKEEP: Russia sent in its foreign minister to meet with Syria's president. Russia and China vetoed a United Nations resolution, you'll recall, that is aimed at stopping Bashar al-Assad's wholesale killing of his people.

MONTAGNE: Today, we've made contact with the city of Homs, where those rockets have been falling. We reached a man in the neighborhood of Baba Amr on Skype. Activist Omer Shakir has been posting updates on his Twitter feed from the home he shares with another family.

What are you seeing and hearing?

OMER SHAKIR: Three days ago, the shelling start, and the Assad army now surrounding us with more than 50 tanks and more than 10,000 soldiers. They are using heavy machine guns, tanks - Russian tanks - and they are using rockets against the civilians. Until now, we have more than 12 kids has been injury due the shelling, since three days ago.

(SOUNDBITE OF GUNFIRE)

SHAKIR: Just after three days we have the most violence since the beginning of this revolution. OK? You can hear the heavy machine guns now, because I opened the window.

MONTAGNE: Yes, it sounds pretty bad outside, and constant. We heard yesterday that a field hospital was hit by a rocket, a hospital filled with people who had already been injured. You know anything about that?

SHAKIR: Yeah, right. Now we don't have even something like this hospital. Now we are using the mosque as our fifth(ph) hospital. And in the last three days, we have more than 60 martyrs. OK?

MONTAGNE: When you say martyrs, you're speaking of the dead.

SHAKIR: Yeah.

MONTAGNE: Well, how are you living? We've heard that there's no electricity, and obviously communication is very hard.

SHAKIR: Yeah, right. I'm using a generator and satellite for the Internet. We don't have food. OK? And there is no (unintelligible).

MONTAGNE: I can hear other voices.

SHAKIR: Yeah. We are trying to encourage ourselves, try to say some jokes so we can feel better.

MONTAGNE: Say some jokes?

SHAKIR: Yeah. Yeah, exactly.

MONTAGNE: Do you have weapons yourselves?

SHAKIR: No.

MONTAGNE: So you're just keeping your head down as best as possible?

SHAKIR: Yeah, right. I hope they come, some inside. Because every man here in Baba Amr here is wanted.

(SOUNDBITE OF EXPLOSION)

MONTAGNE: It sounds very close.

SHAKIR: Yeah. It's because it's heavy machine guns.

MONTAGNE: May I ask? A Russian delegation is in Syria today. What do you think about that, about the Russians trying to help or intervene?

SHAKIR: I just want to ask this Russian guy to come here inside Baba Amr and save one life, if he can, because we cannot sleep. We cannot find food. I just want him to come here inside Baba Amr and suffer as we suffer and see what we see.

MONTAGNE: Do you feel that there's any help coming in your way?

SHAKIR: No, there is no one with us. We are depending on you. Maybe they can do something preventing Assad army from killing everybody here in Baba Amr. So we are asking for SOS. We need the International Red Cross to come inside.

(SOUNDBITE OF EXPLOSION)

MONTAGNE: Omer Shakir, thank you very much for spending this time with us. And take care of yourself, and we hope to talk to you again.

SHAKIR: I hope so.

MONTAGNE: Omer Shakir, speaking to us from the neighborhood of Baba Amr in Homs, Syria. We spoke to him on Skype.

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