The Syrian army has used mortars, tanks and heavy machine guns against Khaldiyeh, an area of Homs, in an effort to re-take an area which had become a no-go zone.
The state killed nearly 200 people on Friday 3 February as tank shells destroyed private homes. The bombardment of Homs continued over the weekend, killing many more.
Friday’s killings took place after Syrians came onto the streets to mark the 30th anniversary of a terrible massacre carried out under the direction of Bashar Assad’s father, Hafez. At the beginning of February 1982 perhaps 20,000 people were slaughtered as the regime ended a rising of the Muslim Brothers in Hama.
Bashar Assad’s one party state’s aim is to terrorise the local Sunni Muslim population and defeat the more lightly armed opposition Free Syrian Army (FSA).
Locally the population appears to have retreated into ethnic-religious groupings, each based in their own areas of town and frightened to leave their own neighbourhoods.
The state itself is a sectarian entity, constructed around members of the Alawite sect, a strand of Shia Islam.
There is now a fear that the pro-democracy uprising will descend into sectarian civil war.
Human Rights Watch has reported a rapid increase in killings in recent months as oppositionists become better armed and the state responds with increasing brutality.
• Disgrace on China and Russia veto of UN resolution on Syria, see page 3.