Syrian forces increased their offensive Friday in several cities across the country and especially in the suburbs of Damascus, according to human rights activists. At least 24 people were killed. The violence intensified as the regime is expected to apply by April 10 the peace plan of UN and the Arab League envoy and Kofi Annan. It provides for the withdrawal of troops and heavy equipment from residential areas and a cease-fire.
According to eyewitnesses, the forces of Bashar al-Assad attacked multiple areas, including Idlib in northern Syria near the border with Turkey. "They devastated" the town of Taftanaz," said one activist.
The regime's forces also shelled Homs in central Syria and Rastan, north of the city, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Meanwhile, the Syrian army continued its operations in several towns in the outskirts of Damascus - Duma, Saqba, Arbin and Dumair, battling armed insurgents.
According to an opposition activist, the army tanks patrolled the deserted streets of Duma, 12km from Damascus. Security forces entered Duma Thursday "to try to regain control" of the city "once and for all", according to Rami Abdul-Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Thursday that the situation is worsening in Syria. "Cities, towns and villages have been turned into war zones (...) The rights of the Syrian people continue to be violated, the humanitarian needs are growing dramatically," he said.