Demonstrators march through the streets in Hajar Al Aswad in Damascus on July 17, 2011. Image Credit: Reuters

Dubai: Syrian security forces opened fire at a funeral procession yesterday, killing at least 10 people in a city that has been rocked for days by some of the most serious violence yet in the country's four-month-old uprising, activists said.

The killings bring the death toll in Homs to about 50 people since Saturday, according to a number of activists, human rights groups and witnesses.

"We haven't slept since yesterday," a Homs resident was quoted by the Associated Press as saying by telephone, the sharp crackle of heavy machine-gun fire in the background. "I am lying down on the floor as I talk to you. Other people are hiding in bathrooms."

He described Homs as a "ghost city".

Sectarian fighting

Abu Jaafar Al Homsi, spokesman for the self-proclaimed Syrian Revolution Coordiantion Committee in Homs, said the regime's forces were very angry since its plot to create a fight between Alawite and Sunni residents of the city failed to gain momentum.

A day after Qatar shut down its embassy in Damascus, Nabeel Al Araby, secretary-general of the Arab League, said his recent visit and meeting with Syrian President Bashar Al Assad was to evaluate the situation in Syria.

Al Araby visited Damascus last week in his first Arab tour since he took over as Arab League chief earlier this month.

In his visit, Al Araby publicly denounced any foreign interference in reshaping Syria's leadership, but the European Union warned on Monday that it was considering tougher sanctions against Syria.

"Arabs, mainly the Gulf countries, will form a unified stand towards the incidents in Syria and the stand of the Arab League should become clearer and firmer towards Syria," one analyst said.

Dr Ammar Qurabi, head of National Human Rights Organisation in Syria, said: "Al Assad was given more than four months to handle the uprising during which nearly 2,000 people were killed, 12,000 arrested and 15,000 people became refugees in neighbouring countries.

"This has to stop and the Arab League should play pivotal role in helping Syrians to achieve their goals of freedom and democracy."