Syrian opposition activists accused forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad of bombarding rebel areas on Wednesday as a U.N. mission was expected to arrive in Damascus in a first step to implement an international peace plan.
Activists said at least 80 people have been killed since Tuesday despite the imminent arrival of the advance team from the U.N. peacekeeping department.
The advance mission is part of the latest international effort to end a year of bloodshed that began with peaceful protests against Assad’s authoritarian rule in March 2011.
Activists said troops and police loyal to Assad pressed on with a campaign of raids and arrests in rebel areas, accompanied by bombardments, gun battles and sniper attacks.
“Since this morning they have been shelling Khalidiya neighborhood, that is in its 17th day,” said Hadi Abdullah by telephone from Homs, the city of one million which has suffered most in the bloody 12 month uprising.
“Whatever it is that hits the area leaves a horrible sulfur smell, like rotten eggs.”
Human rights group Amnesty International said it had counted 232 deaths since Syria accepted Annan’s plan on March 27.
Assad’s government issued its latest official death toll for the 12-month uprising. It told the United Nations that 6,044 people had been killed of whom 2,566 were soldiers and police.
The United Nations itself says Assad’s forces have killed more than 9,000 people in the past year.