At least 93 people were killed on Friday across Syria as regime forces shelled a rebel-held area of the city of Homs for the 21st straight day, while tens of thousands protested in several regions, monitors said.
The bombing targeted the district of Baba Amr, where hundreds have reportedly been killed since forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad began an artillery attack on February 4, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
For its part, the Local Coordination Committees, the main activist group spurring protests on the ground, said security forces killed 32 people in Homs, 30 in the central province of Hama, four in the northern province of Aleppo, 10 in the northeastern province of al-Hasakeh, three in the southern province of Daraa, 10 in the northwestern province of Idlib, two in the restive countryside around Damascus, one in the northern province of al-Raqqa and another in the eastern province of Deir al-Zour.
Some 86 people, including 61 civilians, were killed Thursday across the country, adding to more than 7,600 people killed since protests erupted against Assad's regime in March 2011.
"Baba Amr is being brought down on the heads of its inhabitants," wrote one activist who posted online footage of the bombing. "O, Arabs and Muslims, why don't you react," he asked.
U.S. war reporter Marie Colvin and French photojournalist Remi Ochlik were killed Wednesday in shelling that hit a makeshift media center in Baba Amr.
Army defectors also clashed with regime forces in the city of Rastan, in the province of Homs, and destroyed two personnel carriers as troops attempted to storm the rebel-held city, the Observatory said.
Meanwhile, tens of thousands flooded streets across the country defying tight security and gunfire in some places, after activists called for demonstrations nationwide in support of Baba Amr.
"We will rise up for you Baba Amr," said a call for protests posted on the Syrian Revolution 2011 Facebook page.
"Tens of thousands of Syrians demonstrated today in several areas of Syria," Rami Abdul Rahman, the head of the Observatory, told Agence France Presse.
In the northern city of Aleppo, security forces opened fire to disperse a protest in the Sukari neighborhood, and at another demonstration in the city of Tal Refat, in the province of Aleppo, the Observatory said.
Security forces also deployed at the university of Aleppo, scene to protests over the past days.
In the eastern city of Deir al-Zour, a civilian was seriously wounded as security forces opened fire at a demonstration at the Hweija roundabout, the Observatory said.
In the southern province of Daraa, security forces opened fire at a demonstration in the town of Adwan while military forces stormed the town of al-Hara, the Observatory said. There were protests elsewhere in the province.
The Local Coordination Committees said that demonstrators emerged from mosques following the weekly Muslim prayers in the northern Damascus suburb of Douma chanting slogans of support for Baba Amr and calling for the overthrow of the regime.
Protests were also staged in the Mediterranean cities of Latakia, Jableh, and Banias, as well as in Hasakeh and Qamishli, in the northeast, the LCC reported.
Western and Arab powers meeting in Tunis on Friday are to push Syria to allow in desperately needed humanitarian aid.
More than 60 nations are gathering for the "Friends of Syria" conference, which will also seek to further isolate Assad's regime and support the country's opposition.
Later on Friday, the International Committee of the Red Cross said Red Crescent and Red Cross ambulances entered the besieged Homs district of Baba Amr and evacuated seven Syrians wounded in bombardments by regime forces.
But the ambulances did not evacuate two wounded Western journalists and the bodies of two others, a spokesman for the ICRC told AFP, adding that negotiations in their case were still under way.
"Three ambulances entered Baba Amr and they have left. They evacuated so far seven wounded Syrian citizens," Saleh Dabbakeh said.
"Negotiations continue with the Syrian authorities and the opposition in an attempt to evacuate all persons, without exception, who are in need of urgent help," he added.
The evacuation was organized by the ICRC along with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and was the first time rescuers had entered the flashpoint Baba Amr neighborhood in 21 straight days of deadly bombardment.
Eleven ambulances and other vehicles drove into the district, but only three ambulances left with wounded Syrians, although Dabbakeh earlier said the operation would also include the Western journalists.
American reporter Colvin and French photojournalist Ochlik were killed on Wednesday when a rocket hit a makeshift media center in Baba Amr, a rebel stronghold.
French reporter Edith Bouvier and British photographer Paul Conroy suffered leg wounds in the same attack.
On Thursday Bouvier was seen in a video message appealing for medical evacuation.
"My leg is broken at the level of the femur, along its length and also horizontally. I need to be operated upon as soon as possible," she said in the video shot by anti-regime activists.
"The doctors here have treated me very well, as much as they are able, but they are not able to undertake surgical procedures," she said.
"I need a ceasefire and a medically equipped vehicle, or at least one in good condition, that can get me to the Lebanese border so I can be treated in the shortest possible time."
Earlier Dabbakeh said that the ICRC and the Red Crescent would seek to evacuate from Homs "everyone in need of urgent help," not just the foreign reporters.
Homs has been under siege and bombardment since February 4 with Baba Amr bearing the brunt of the onslaught.
Syria accused rebels in Baba Amr of refusing to hand over Bouvier and the bodies of the two killed Western journalists to rescuers, the state-run SANA news agency reported.
"The concerned authorities in Homs, moved by humanitarian considerations, sent several local officials and Red Crescent ambulances to evacuate the Western journalists who entered Syria illegally," SANA quoted a foreign ministry official as saying.
"Despite efforts that lasted several hours, armed groups in Baba Amr refused to hand over the wounded woman (Bouvier) and the two bodies, thus endangering the life of the wounded French journalist," the official added.
Diplomatic efforts were stepped up on Friday to evacuate the wounded Western journalists and the bodies of their two colleagues, with the French, British and Polish working closely together, a Western diplomat said.
And the French embassy said that Ambassador Eric Chevallier returned to Damascus, more than two weeks after he was recalled by Paris in response to the Syrian regime's crackdown on dissent.
Chevallier had gone to Homs on January 11 to repatriate the body of French journalist Gilles Jacquier who was killed by shelling there, the first Western journalist to be killed in the conflict.
The Polish embassy has represented U.S. interests in Syria since Washington closed its Damascus embassy for security reasons earlier this month.
Meanwhile French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe, in Tunis for the "Friends of Syria" meeting on Friday, "solemnly" urged Syria to allow for the evacuation of the wounded journalists.
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