- NEW: An opposition group reports 126 killed so far Thursday
- NEW: The group describes more attacks in two other cities
- Syrian state TV says armed gangs have begun new attacks in Homs
- The president has repeatedly denied attacking civilians
(CNN) — A Syrian opposition group reported as many as 126 deaths at the hands of government forces Thursday as President Bashar al-Assad escalated a brutal assault against an opposition that wants an end to his regime.
The fifth day of attacks on opposition activists and civilians follows what U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon described as a “disastrous” failure over the weekend by the U.N. Security Council to agree on a resolution condemning the violence in Syria and calling for al-Assad, in power for 12 years, to step down.
The fallout from the failed U.N. vote is playing out in the streets of the besieged city of Homs — Syria’s third-largest city — which has become a flashpoint in the uprising.
The Local Coordination Committees, a network of opposition activists that organizes and documents protests, said of the 126 deaths in Syria Thursday, 10 were children.
The group said 107 of those killed were in Homs, and the rest occurred in other cities around the country.
The president has repeatedly denied attacking civilians, saying Syrian forces are targeting armed gangs and foreign terrorists bent on destabilizing the government.
Syrian state television Thursday said armed terrorist gangs fired seven shells into Homs in the early morning, adding that there were no reports of damage.
The station then showed video of alleged residents saying armed gangs had fired on their homes and schools with shells and rocket-propelled grenades.
Nearly all other reports from within the country, however, tell a different story. Opposition activists in Homs describe bomb explosions from Syrian forces every few minutes, wounded people bleeding to death in the streets because they can’t get medical attention, snipers picking off civilians running for cover, and heavy damage.
Medical charities say doctors inside Syria have reported hospitals, clinics, medical staff and patients being targeted.
A doctor in the Homs neighborhood of Baba Amr, Ali Hazoury, said a group from the Red Crescent tried to visit the other day to give medical aid, but their vehicle was attacked and they were forced to turn around.
Civilians who enter hospitals with minor injuries were left to die, said Col. Malek Al Kurdi of the rebel Free Syrian Army, who said he witnessed such a scene in the coastal city of Latakia.
“Al-Assad is now using the tactic of attacking three or more cities at the same time to attempt to deter the revolt,” Al Kurdi said. “Last night the killers attacked Zabadani, Homs, and Talkala at the same time.”
The Local Coordination Committees also described attacks in Zabadani. Citizens in the southern town were enduring “intense and barbaric shelling” for a sixth day there, with food, fuel, and medical supplies running low and the town sealed off, the group said.
Snipers were positioned on rooftops in the southern village of Taseel with security checkpoints all around, the group said. It also accused the government of lying about its own attacks.
“The regime’s forces raided the town this morning amid intense and sporadic shooting,” the group said, citing activists and doctors in Syria for its information.
“A civilian’s home was exploded and a huge amount of weaponry was brought in, then photographed by the Syrian regime’s state media as tools and acts of armed gangsters to justify for raiding the town, which is now strictly sealed off,” the group said.
CNN cannot independently confirm reports in Syria because the government has severely limited the access of international journalists.
Inside Homs, the opposition reported Syrian forces launched new raids Thursday, targeting homes and beating residents, according to a statement by the opposition Syrian Revolution General Commission.
At least 12 people were killed in shelling that targeted the Homs neighborhood of Baba Amr, according to the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition activist group that collects details about casualties. Another fatality was reported in a different Homs neighborhood, the group said.
Among the victims killed in the shelling was a man whose home collapsed after an attack, according to Omar Shakir, an opposition activist and citizen journalist who lives in the Baba Amr neighborhood.
A video Shakir purportedly shot and uploaded onto YouTube shows the rubble of the home he says was shelled.
More than 93 people, including 21 children, reportedly died Wednesday in fighting and shelling in Homs, according to the Syrian Revolution group.
The rebel army in the area cannot engage government forces because the shelling is coming from areas outside the neighborhoods, he said.
“Instead the rebel group is involved in civilian rescue operations,” he said.
Fighting also was reported in the southern city of al-Harra, where the Syrian Revolution opposition group said security forces launched an attack using machine guns and tanks.
The failed Security Council vote has shaken relations among the world’s largest powers, after Russia and China vetoed the resolution that was supported by the United Nations, the United States and the rest of the Security Council, the European Union, and the Arab League.
Britain’s ambassador to Syria painted a picture of a brutal crackdown on civilians in a Foreign Office blog post Thursday. Simon Collis described the beating of peaceful protesters, including the elderly and children. Those chanting for freedom in the Umayad Mosque in Damascus were also beaten, he said.
“It is too shocking to ignore,” Collis wrote as he called for world condemnation of the actions of al-Assad’s regime.
With the Security Council at an impasse, the United States and other countries have called for the creation of a “Friends of Democratic Syria” group as a way to support a free and democratic Syria, said Victoria Nuland, the U.S. State Department spokeswoman.
Though details about such a group are still being worked out, one focus is humanitarian support for the Syrian people, Nuland said.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu arrived Thursday in Washington, where he was expected to hold talks with some U.S. lawmakers on the Arab League proposal on Syria. The plan calls for resuming a monitoring mission to determine whether al-Assad is abiding by an agreement that his government would end all violence.
Turkey, which has been critical of al-Assad’s crackdown, may offer to host a meeting of the friends of Syria group. It previously offered to host an international conference on the same issue.
It’s not clear whether the friends of Syria group will invite Russia or China to participate, but Nuland said the two countries have made their position on Syria known by their veto in the Security Council.
Russia, a Soviet-era ally of Syria and a primary arms dealer to al-Assad’s government, said it vetoed the Security Council resolution because it failed to place blame on the opposition as well as the government and amounted to a call for regime change.
China announced Thursday that it’s in touch with all parties in Syria, including opposition groups. Beijing said it wants to push for peace and dialogue in Syria and urged the Syrian government to fulfill its commitment to reform, indicating it does not support outside intervention.
Russia indicated the same, with President Dmitry Medvedev calling his French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy to urge the United States and the EU to “avoid hasty unilateral steps” in Syria, according to Russian state-run Interfax news agency.
There are others, though, who believe that even stronger steps need to be taken in Syria. Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said after the Security Council veto that there must be increased international pressure on al-Assad and to convince people around him that he must go.
CNN’s Salma Abdelaziz and journalist Mohamed Fadel Fahmy contributed to this report.