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'Situation Could Not Be More Dire,' Syrians In Besieged City Say

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From inside the Syrian city of Homs, where activists say several hundred people have been killed by government forces in the past week and troops are preparing for what could be a "ground offensive" in coming days, residents say the "situation could not be more dire," NPR's Kelly McEvers reports.

Speaking to Morning Edition co-host Steve Inskeep from Beirut, where she has been monitoring developments inside Syria, Kelly said activists and residents in Homs say the city is now surrounded by army tanks. Shelling continues. Field hospitals are running out of supplies. Activists and fighters who are trying to resist the regime of President Bashar Assad are asking the international community to do something to intervene.

One way citizen journalists in Homs are trying to get the word out about what's happening is with live video streams on the Web, such as one here. They're also using Twitter and other social media sites to post messages. NPR.org's Ahmed Al Omran is following their reports on his Twitter page.

Also in Syria today, there's word of two explosions at government security compounds in the city of Aleppo, The Associated Press reports. State-controlled news media are saying that 25 people were killed and 175 wounded. They're blaming "terrorists," while "anti-Assad activists accuse the regime of setting off the blasts to discredit the opposition and to overt protests that had been planned in the city on Friday," the AP says.

The BBC adds that:

"Aleppo, a mercantile city, has seen only minor protests and relatively little violence since the uprising against President Assad erupted in March, which human rights groups say has left more than 7,000 civilians dead."

There are also reports and photos of continued fighting in the northern province of Idlib

As we've said previously, because few foreign journalists have been allowed in Syria it's difficult to verify the claims made by either side. But independent organizations, such as the U.N., report that more than 5,000 people have been killed in the past year — most at the hands of government forces.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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