BEIRUT — Syrian soldiers opened fire in the restive city of Homs on Tuesday and armored vehicles rolled through its streets, activists said, as the U.N. secretary-general urged the world community to take action on Syria.
Ban Ki-moon delivered some of his strongest statements yet condemning the violence, saying President Bashar Assad must take “bold and decisive measures before it’s too late.”
“It’s already too late, in fact,” Ban said in New Zealand, where he was attending a meeting of Pacific leaders. “If it takes more and more days, then more people will be killed.”
The U.N. says 2,200 people have been killed since the Syrian uprising began in March, inspired by the revolutions sweeping the Arab world. But nearly six months later, the unrest in Syria has descended into a bloody stalemate with neither side willing to back down.
On Tuesday, the Syrian activist network known as The Local Coordination Committees says Homs residents were hiding in homes and offices to escape the gunfire.
Homs has seen some of the largest protests against the regime. Citing witnesses on the ground, the LCC said armored vehicles were rolling through the city and “shooting toward anything moving.”
Syria has banned foreign journalists and restricted local media during the revolt, which poses the most serious challenge to the Assad family’s four-decade rule.
Activist accounts and amateur videos posted online are vital sources of information, but it is nearly impossible to independently confirm the reports.
The regime blames the unrest on thugs and armed gangs and claims security forces are the real victims, not true reform-seekers.
The government’s violent crackdown on dissent has led to broad international sanctions aimed at isolating the regime.
On Monday, the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross said the regime had allowed ICRC to visit Damascus Central Prison, the first such visit during the 5-month-old uprising.
“The Syrian authorities have granted the ICRC access to a place of detention for the first time,” Jakob Kellenberger said in a statement. “Initially, we will have access to persons detained by the Ministry of the Interior, and we are hopeful that we will soon be able to visit all detainees.”