Syrian forces bombarded Homs on Monday, killing 50 people in a sustained assault on several districts of the city which has become a centre of armed opposition to President Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian National Council opposition group said.
"The tally that we have received from various activists in Homs since the shelling started at six this morning is 50, mostly civilians," the group's Catherine al-Talli told Reuters.
"The regime is acting as if it were immune to international intervention and has a free hand to use violence against the people," she said.
"This is the most violent bombardment in recent days," said one activist in Syria who was in touch with Homs residents. Another activist said forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad were using multiple rocket launchers in the attack.
Arab satellite television stations broadcast live footage from Homs. Explosions could be heard and smoke was seen rising from some buildings.
Activists said more than 200 people were killed on Friday night when tanks and artillery blasted Khalidiya. It was the highest reported death in a single day since the uprising against Assad's rule, inspired by uprisings across the Arab world, erupted last March.
Damascus denies firing on houses and says images of dead on the Internet were staged. Reports from activists and authorities are hard to verify because Syria restricts access for independent media. The latest assault, which began on Monday, appeared to be more widely targeted, with explosions in Khalidiya, Baba Amro, Bayada and Bab Dreib neighbourhoods, the activists said.
"They want to drive the Free Syrian Army out," said Bab Amro resident Hussein Nader over telephone, referring to the rebel force of army deserters and gunmen who have controlled parts of the city for months.