REPORTING FROM BEIRUT -- Turkey and Norway closed their embassies in Damascus on Monday, citing the security concerns amid unrest in Syria.
The move came in the wake of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's increasing criticism of Syrian President Bashar Assad and as opposition leaders held a conference in Istanbul, Turkey. The meeting, in part meant to bridge conflicts between opposition groups, came as the Assad regime continued its assault on several regions in Syria, including the battered city of Homs.
Across Syria, 37 people were reported killed, including 22 in Homs, according to the Syrian Revolution Coordination Union, an activist group. Abu Fidaa, an activist in the Khaldiyeh neighborhood reached by Skype, said that shelling in the city and its suburbs began at 5 a.m., earlier than usual.
"They are using mortars but the army started to use a heavier caliber. ... After rounds of mortars they are using a missile," he said. "All Homs is being shelled."
The Syrian government has limited the access of outside media to the conflict zones, so the death tolls and accounts of shelling could not be independently verified.
Meanwhile, Syria has formally responded to a six-point plan to end the conflict proposed by United Nations special envoy Kofi Annan and endorsed by the Security Council, according to a brief statement released by Annan's spokesman.
The statement gave no specifics on Syria's response, but said that Annan is studying it and would respond shortly.
-- Times staff
Photo: This image from amateur video and released by Shaam News Network on Monday purports to show smoke rising from buildings in Homs, Syria. Credit: Associated Press / Shaam News Network