Civilians, including children, were said to have been killed by Syrian troops after a raid on the town of Homs [LCC Syria]
Fresh violence has erupted in the besieged Syrian city of Homs, a day after armed forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad barraged residential buildings with mortars and machine-gun fire and killed at least 30 people, activists have said.
Heavy gunfire erupted for a second day on Friday in the city, which has seen some of the heaviest violence of the 10-month-old uprising against Assad's rule. Activists said at least 61 people have been killed across the country on Friday.
Elsewhere, a car bomb exploded on Friday at a checkpoint outside the northern city of Idlib, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said, citing witnesses. The number of casualties was not immediately clear.
The head of the Arab League monitoring mission in Syria said that the violence has risen "in a significant way" in the last three days, particularly in Homs, Hama and Idlib.
"The situation at present, in terms of violence, does not help prepare the atmosphere ... to get all sides to sit at the negotiating table," General Mohammed Ahmed Mustafa al-Dabi said in a statement.
The Sudanese general called for "an immediate end to the violence to protect the Syrian people and clear the way for peaceful resolutions" to the crisis.
The pre-dawn assault in Homs, and reports of similar offensives against Hama and other cities, came hours after the United Nations said it could no longer keep track of the death toll in Syria, which it put at more than 5,000 over a month ago.
The Homs raid began in the Karm Al-Zeitoun neighbourhood, with the Syrian Human Rights Observatory reporting 33 people killed in Syria's third-largest city.
Details of Thursday's wave of violence in Homs were emerging from an array of residents and activists on Friday, though they said they were having difficulty because of continuing gunfire.
"There has been a terrifying massacre,'' Rami Abdul-Rahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told the Associated Press news agency on Friday, calling for an independent investigation of Thursday's killings.
The Local Co-ordination Committees (LCC), which organise protests on the ground, said that by Friday Assad's forces had pounded the Bab Sbaa neighbourhood with heavy artillery and rocket fire.
Fighting was also heard in Bab Amr district. The LCC said three people were killed early on Friday in Homs and said two more were killed in Idlib province in the northwest and one in the Damascus suburbs.
The SOHR said another flashpoint central city, Hama, also came under assault in the early hours of Friday, with intense firing from heavy machine guns and loud explosions heard.
Meanwhile, in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, scores of opponents of Assad's government stormed the Syrian embassy on Friday before being dragged away by security forces.
At least 200 protesters forced their way into the building in the Garden City neighbourhood in Cairo, breaking doors and windows, before Egyptian security officials arrived and took them out, the AFP news agency reported.
No arrests were made. The embassy was empty because Friday is a weekend day in Egypt.
Yusef Ahmed, the Syrian ambassador, went to the embassy after the incident and said he would formally complain to authorities.
"The Syrian embassy is being targeted. We will be sending a formal letter calling for the embassy to be protected. The protection today was very weak," Ahmed told AFP.
The protesters "went into the building. They reached the floor where the ambassador's office is located. Unfortunately they were not resisted," he said as he walked over broken glass and into the building.
"This is a very serious development," he said.