Activists: Syria escape route targeted
01:33 - Source: CNN

Are you there? Send us your images or video.

Story highlights

Preliminary discussions begin on a new U.N. resolution

Opposition group: The Syrian military targets a bridge used by fleeing civilians

A U.N. relief coordinator is set to arrive in Damascus on Wednesday

Eastern Lebanon CNN  — 

At least 39 people were killed in Syria on Tuesday, as government forces took aim at citizens across the country, opposition activists said.

The deaths included 23 people in the opposition stronghold of Homs, according to the Local Coordination Committees of Syria, a network of opposition activists.

Also in Homs, the Syrian military targeted a bridge on the Orontes River near the Lebanese border that was used as a crossing by wounded civilians, dissidents and refugees fleeing to Lebanon, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, another opposition group.

As many as 2,000 Syrians have crossed from Homs province into Lebanon since Sunday, according to Dana Suleiman, spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees in Beirut.

Eight wounded Syrian men crossed into the Lebanese village of El Qaa from Syria on Tuesday, according to a Lebanese Red Cross official. They were taken to hospitals in northern Lebanon by the Red Cross; one of the Syrians died, said the official, who did not want to be named because he is not authorized to speak to the media.

One man, his head bandaged, was sitting up. Another man, his face pale, lay on a stretcher, blood on his abdomen and his arm, from which an intravenous line was connected to a bag.

Most of the wounded refugees who entered Lebanon did so via informal border crossings into the Bekaa Valley to avoid Syrian border authorities, said the official, who added that the total number was not known.

Refugees also fled the northern Syria city of Idlib after a threat of government shelling, according to the Binnish Coordination Committee local opposition group. The Syrian regime had threatened to shell the city of Idlib if Free Syrian Army opposition fighters there did not hand over their weapons, the group said.

Binnish was among the towns where demonstrations against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime were taking place Tuesday, the Binnish Coordination Committee said.

Among those killed in Homs on Tuesday were 13 people from two families, who died in what the Local Coordination Committees called “a new massacre” in the countryside near the city’s hard-hit Baba Amr neighborhood at the hands of security forces and armed gangs.

The state-run Syrian Arab News Agency reported Tuesday that some families who had fled “armed terrorist groups” in Baba Amr returned home Monday.

Authorities have restored “stability and security” to the neighborhood, SANA said. Public workers were cleaning, performing maintenance tasks, opening roads “and removing the debris left by the terrorists.”

Authorities found a weapons factory and equipment, including “an Israeli-like reconnaissance plane” in the neighborhood, believed to have been used by the terrorist groups, the agency said.

Baba Amr endured nearly a month of shelling before rebel forces announced a “tactical retreat” Thursday. An opposition activist reported arrests, rapes and torture after al-Assad’s forces moved in.

The regime has sent reinforcements into the city of Homs, the opposition group Avaaz reported Tuesday.

“Several planes have been spotted over Homs, and residents told Avaaz there is widespread fear that regime forces will start shelling Khaldiya, another staunchly anti-Assad neighborhood, akin to the month-long attack on Baba Amr,” the group said in a statement.

Homs residents were afraid to leave their homes, as snipers were posted across the city, Avaaz said.

Spain suspended Tuesday activities at its embassy in Damascus. Other countries, including the United States and France, have closed their Syrian embassies.

As the death toll climbs from the nearly year-long government onslaught, the U.S. military’s top commander in the Middle East told lawmakers Tuesday that he believes the violence in Syria will worsen.

Al-Assad’s forces remain viable, Gen. James Mattis, head of the U.S. Central Command, said at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.

“He will continue to employ heavier and heavier weapons on his people,” Mattis said. “I think it will get worse before it gets better.”