Civilians flee after government tanks entered the northwestern city of Idlib on Tuesday. Bashar Al Assad’s forces renewed their assault on Homs on Tuesday as the UN human rights chief raised fears of civil war Image Credit: EPA

Homs: In a significant shift in tone, China on Tuesday said it will not protect the regime of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad.

"China will absolutely not protect any party, including the government in Syria," Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao told reporters in Beijing.

China and Russia vetoed a UN Security Council resolution condemning the crackdown on protesters, drawing international anger and criticism.

Wen's comments, during an EU-China summit, came after the United Nations' top human rights representative said the world body's inaction had "emboldened" the Syrian government to use overwhelming force against its own civilians.


Syria flatly rejected the accusations and accused the world body of ignoring crimes it said were being committed by foreign-backed "terrorist groups".

Meanwhile, France said it was reviewing a range of options proposed by the Arab League at the United Nations to deal with the crackdown in Syria.

"We understand that there are several possible options concerning peacekeepers as put forward by the Arab League. That's all being discussed, clarified," foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said.

Up to 900 killed in February alone

Between 500-900 people have been killed in February alone, according to various activist groups who have been monitoring the current escalation in government attacks, particularly in the city of Homs.

On Tuesday, Syrian troops battered Homs in some of the heaviest shelling for days in the flashpoint city as the international community warned of a humanitarian disaster.

Gulf News was witness to the shelling of the city every few minutes. Two Kalashnikovs were pointed at this writer as an officer checked his passport. Four more shells burst before the officer returned. "You are free to go, but be careful," he warned.