Tanks shell Syrian city

“Homs is shaking with the sound of explosions from tank shelling and heavy machineguns in the Bab Amro neighbourhood,” said Najati Tayara.

Tayara said a Syrian Christian was killed by sniper fire to his head in the nearby Inshaat district, adding that the authorities were trying to raise sectarian tensions to undermine pro-democracy demonstrations. He said Maher Naqour was shot as he was standing in front of his house in an area where snipers had been deployed on rooftops as part of a military sweep.

Assad initially responded to the unrest with promises of reform and warnings that the demonstrators were serving a foreign conspiracy to sow sectarian strife. He granted citizenship to stateless Kurds and lifted a 48-year state of emergency.

But he also sent the army to crush dissent, in Deraa where people first took to the streets on March 18 and then to other cities, making clear he would not risk losing the tight control his family has held over Syria for the past 41 years.

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