Amid reports of intensified military shelling of Homs, US pulls out diplomats and UK recalls ambassador from Damascus.
The US has closed down its embassy in Syria and pulled all of its employees out of the country, amid reports that the Syrian military is intensifying its assault on the central city of Homs.
The UK also announced on Monday it would recall its ambassador to Syria for what it called consultations.
Activists and witnesses said the Syrian army had stepped up its attacks on opposition fighters in Homs after a UN Security Council resolution, aimed at ending the bloodshed in the country, was blocked by Russia and China on Saturday.
Abu Abdo Alhomsy, an activist of a revolutionary council in Homs, described to Al Jazeera an attack on Monday on the city as live pictures showed smoke billowing into the sky.
“It is horrible right here,” Alhomsy said. “Rockets are falling. There are massive explosions that shook buildings. We don’t know really what to do.
“Its a massive attack - a new massacre is happening here. Nobody can go out, we don’t know how many homes have been hit or how many people died.”
The UK-based opposition group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), said at least 29 civilians were killed and dozens more wounded.
But it said the death toll was likely to rise because many of the wounded had suffered critical injuries.
The shelling, which began at dawn, was mainly targeting the neighbourhoods of Khaldiyeh, Bab Amr, Inshaat and Bab Sbaa, the SOHR said.
Video received by Al Jazeera from opposition activists on Sunday showed the apparent devastation caused by a military offensive in the Bab Amr neighbourhood of Homs.
A video posted by activists on YouTube apparently showed a field hospital hit by the shelling in Bab Amr. Wounded patients could be seen lying on stretchers on the floor amid pools of blood and shattered glass. Bodies of dead people with horrific injuries were also shown inside the hospital.
The authenticity of the video could not immediately be verified.
Syrian state television has accused “armed gangs” of being behind the latest violence in Homs. [Non-stop bombing/Diplomatic protests]