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Parts of Syria's Homs turn normal, others seem lifeless


12:58, November 12, 2011

HOMS, Syria, Nov. 11 (Xinhua) -- As sporadic gunfire could still be heard in Syria's unrest-strewn city of Homs, many in the restive areas opted to remain at home. Yet in some neighborhoods, people braved the spotty gunshots for entertainment in an unusually balmy fall Friday afternoon.

In such neighborhoods as Fakhoura and Bab Tadmur which have witnessed intense violence recently, shop windows were seen smashed into pieces, while several civilian as well as police vehicles were destroyed and roads ravaged.

These neighborhoods have been the focal points of anti- governmental protests in the past weeks, and in some cases, hubs of armed resistance against the government forces.

But in other areas such as Muhajireen, Hamidiah, Zahra and Arman, life seems to have already returned to its normal pace. People were strolling around casually, smoking Shisha in street cafes, while some in a park in the Muhajireen neighborhood were enjoying the warm afternoon with a picnic atmosphere despite the crackles of distant gunfire as the backdrop.

"By God's will, all people will be alright and our nation as well," an old lady from Muhajireen, who goes by the honorific name of Um Muhammad, told Xinhua.

Her optimism was shared by Ahmad Kaser Ali from the Arman neighborhood. According to Ali, "the armed groups have ravaged our beautiful country ... but thanks God, the situation is now better than before."

In Arman, it is notable that there were now no army presence except for some law-enforcement vehicles and some checkpoints set up in some hotspots alleys.

However, a Xinhua cameraman said he still saw the existence of snipers near a rubble-strewn street during a tour to the Fakhoura neighborhood. And journalists were advised not to enter areas such Bab Amro and Bayada as the situation there was still considered unsafe.

Homs, Syria's third largest city and home to about 800,000 people, has drawn worldwide attention due to the horrific reports emerging from the city over the past months. In a report released on Friday, Human Rights Watch said that security forces have killed at least 587 civilians in Homs from mid-April to the end of August.

But the Syrian government denies such claims, accusing the " armed groups" of being behind the violence in Homs and other cities.

In the meantime, the opposition council has called on the Arab League, which is set to meet in an emergency session on Saturday to discuss Syrian crisis, to suspend Syria's membership and back sanctions against those responsible for rights abuses.

According to activists, Homs is deemed as the center of the Syrian unrest as protests are being staged there on a daily basis and its resilient residents showing unrelenting determination to stick to their demands that have amounted to toppling the current administration.

Protests there have even turned violent and claimed the lives of a number of civilians and security agents and policemen in a revenge-related killings.

Syria's state-run news agency said on Friday that clashes between government forces and armed groups had left five gunmen and two law-enforcement officials dead in the Bayada neighborhood in Homs.

Meanwhile, the pan-Arab al-Jazeera television said 21 people were killed across Syria on Friday during new waves of anti- government protests. It said 12 of them were killed in Homs alone.

But al-Jazeera's toll could not be independently verified as it is based on tallies by witnesses and broad-based activists who oppose President Assad.

Syria has overtly charged that some countries are behind the unrest in the country and even fund what it called armed terrorist groups it blames for killing hundreds of policemen and military personnel across the country.

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