Edited from AP — Government forces surrounded residents of a restive Syrian village in a valley and killed all those trapped inside – more than 100 people – in a barrage of rockets, tank shells, bombs and gunfire that lasted for hours, a witness and two activist groups said Wednesday.

Edited from AP — Government forces surrounded residents of a restive Syrian village in a valley and killed all those trapped inside – more than 100 people – in a barrage of rockets, tank shells, bombs and gunfire that lasted for hours, a witness and two activist groups said Wednesday.

The attack on Tuesday pushed the death toll for two days of violence across Syria to more than 200, and was one of the deadliest single events of the entire nine-month uprising against President Bashar Assad’s authoritarian rule.

The White House reacted by renewing its call for Assad to step down, saying his regime does not deserve to rule.

The White House said Assad’s regime has no credibility and has “flagrantly violated” its commitment to end violence. The statement said the Obama administration is deeply disturbed by continued reports of government-backed violence against the Syrian people.

“It was an organized massacre,” said Rami Abdul-Rahman, head of the British-based activist group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. “The troops surrounded people then killed them.”

Syrian officials have not commented on the allegations.

One villager who is an anti-government activist told The Associated Press by telephone that scores of residents and activists fled Tuesday morning to the nearby Budnaya Valley, where they were completely surrounded by troops. The forces bombarded them with tank shells, rockets and heavy machine gun fire. The man, who identified himself only as Abu Rabih for fear of government reprisal, said troops also used bombs filled with nails to increase the number of casualties.

According to activists, all of those in the valley were unarmed civilians and activists, there were no armed military defectors among them.

Abu Rabih said the Jabal al-Zawiyah region has been under intense attack by government forces since Saturday.

Assad agreed Monday to allow foreign monitors under an Arab League plan aimed at stopping the bloodshed. But the huge toll from the crackdown on Monday and Tuesday has reinforced opposition suspicions that Assad is just playing for time to stall a new round of international condemnation and sanctions. The crackdown has already left Assad internationally isolated and under tremendous pressure from the Arab world as well as the west.

The Arab League plan calls for Syria to halt its crackdown, open talks with the opposition, withdraw military forces from city streets and allow in human rights workers and journalists

Despite intensified violence, the Arab League appeared to be going ahead with its plans to send the monitors.

In Cairo, Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby appealed to the Syrian government to shoulder its responsibilities to protect civilians in compliance with its pledges to abide by the League’s plan. He expressed deep concern about reports of an escalation of violence, especially in the provinces of Idlib, Homs, Daraa and Deir el-Zour.

The 22-member Arab League has also suspended Syria’s membership and leveled economic and diplomatic sanctions.

The White House warned Damascus that additional steps will be taken to pressure Assad’s regime if the Arab League initiative is not fully implemented.

In Paris, French Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said “everything must be done to stop this murderous spiral into which Bashar Assad is leading his people more every day.” He added: “It is urgent that the U.N. Security Council pass a firm resolution demanding the end to this repression.”

The German government’s human rights commissioner, Markus Loening, called for an immediate end to violence against deserters and demonstrators. “It is dreadful to see how Bashar Assad and his helpers are clinging onto power and trampling on the Syrian population’s wish for dignity and freedom.”

Syria’s main opposition group, the Syrian National Council described the attack as “brutal massacres and genocide” saying the group has sent messages to members of the U.N. Security Council to hold an emergency meeting on Syria. The SNC also urged the international community in a statement for international protection of the Syrian people.

Assad’s regime agreed to allow the monitoring mission after Arab leaders warned they would turn to the U.N. Security Council to try to end the crackdown.

The Syrian conflict, which began with peaceful protests in March, has become increasingly militarized in recent weeks, with clashes nearly every day between troops and army defectors who have joined the movement against Assad. Idlib province has witnessed some of the most intense clashes. The U.N. says more than 5,000 people have died in unrest since March.

 

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