Fighting claimed the lives of 34 across Syria Tuesday as government forces shelled restive provinces, activists said, even as Russia once again insisted it will not allow any United Nations resolution on Syria that contains "ultimatums."
The dead included a family of three.
Forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad continued to heavily bombard the provinces of Hama and Homs, in a move that aims at driving away rebels still hiding in both areas, activists said.
The intensified violence came as Moscow announced that "it will not approve any declaration or resolution of the U.N. Security Council, if they contain ultimatums," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said at a Moscow press conference, according an Interfax news agency report.
Russia is a longtime ally of Syria and al-Assad, and, since early February, has twice vetoed UN resolutions containing language that might make possible international sanctions against the regime.
Lavrov's statement reiterated Russian opposition to any hint of military pressure upon the Syrian regime, a day after world powers had said that Russian calls for Syria to allow in humanitarian aid showed a shifting of its policy.
According to Omar Homsi, a Syrian activist based in Homs, 25 of Tuesday's death toll were from the province of Homs.
Among those killed in the Homs neighbourhood of Rastan was a four-year-old girl and her parents, the opposition Local Coordination Committees in Syria said in statement.
Nine other people were killed in the northern province of Idlib, Homsi said.
However, the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights have put the toll at 28 across Syria.
News from Syria cannot be verified independently as the government has banned journalists from entering restive areas.
The New-York based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Tuesday armed members of the Syrian opposition have carried out serious human rights abuses against government forces in recent months.
The abuses included kidnapping, detention and torture of security force members, government supporters and people identified as members of pro-government militias, known as Shabiha, HRW said in a letter to leading opposition groups.
"The Syrian government's brutal tactics cannot justify abuses by armed opposition groups," Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW Middle East director was quoted as saying.
"Opposition leaders should make it clear to their followers that they must not torture, kidnap, or execute under any circumstances," she added.
Human Rights Watch has repeatedly documented and condemned widespread violations by Syrian government forces, including disappearances, rampant use of torture, arbitrary detentions, and indiscriminate shelling of neighbourhoods.
In recent months, government forces have launched successful operations in rebellious strongholds in the central city of Homs and the northern city of Idlib to crush the year-old uprising. The observatory said the crackdown has resulted in the deaths of more than 9,000 people.
The head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said Monday that he had received a "positive indication" of Russian support for an ICRC proposal that fighting be suspended for two hours every day, to supply restive areas with medical aid.
Syrian authorities have banned the ICRC from reaching certain rebel areas across Syria.
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said, during a visit to the Indonesian capital Jakarta, that the Syrian crisis was the most crucial issue facing the world today.
"There is no time to waste, no time to lose. Just one minute, one hour (of) delay will mean more and more people dead," Ban said.
European Union foreign ministers are expected later this week to approve more sanctions against Syria, Belarus and Iran, a senior diplomat from the bloc said Tuesday.
Over the past months, the E.U. has relentlessly ratcheted up the pressure on al-Assad, but has had little success in forcing his regime into stopping a bloody crackdown of the year-old insurgency.
On Friday, ministers will be "adding a few more names" to an existing visa ban and asset freeze list targeting dozens of pro-Assad companies and officials, the E.U. source said.
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