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Syria shelling of Homs kills 2 Western journalists

BEIRUT--A French photojournalist and a prominent American war correspondent working for a British newspaper were killed Wednesday by Syrian shelling of the opposition stronghold Homs as President Bashar al-Assad's regime escalated its attacks on rebel bases by strafing from helicopter gunships, activists said.

Weeks of withering barrages on the central city of Homs have failed to drive out opposition factions that include rebel soldiers who fled Assad's forces. Hundreds have died in the siege and the latest deaths further galvanized international pressure on Assad, who appears intent on widening his military crackdowns despite the risk of pushing Syria toward full-scale civil war.

“That's enough now, the regime must go,” said French President Nicolas Sarkozy after his government confirmed the journalists' deaths.

French spokeswoman Valerie Pecresse identified those killed as French photojournalist Remi Ochlik and American reporter Marie Colvin, who was working for Britain's Sunday Times.

France's Foreign Minister, Alain Juppe, said the attacks show the “increasingly intolerable repression” by Syrian forces. French Communication Minister Frederic Mitterrand said of the journalists killed: “It's abominable.”

Syrian activists said at least two other Western journalists — French reporter Edith Bouvier of Le Figaro and British photographer Paul Conroy of the Sunday Times — were wounded in Wednesday's shelling, which claimed at least 13 lives.

The Syrian military has intensified its attacks on Homs in the past few days, aiming to retake rebel-held neighborhoods that have become powerful symbols of resistance to Assad's rule.

In the northwestern restive province of Idlib, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claimed that Syrian army helicopters fitted with machine guns opened fire on the village of Ifis. Idlib is a main base of the rebel Free Syrian Army.

Another opposition group, the Local Coordination Committees, said troops conducted raids in the Damascus district of Mazzeh district and the suburb Jobar, where dozens of people were detained. In Jobar, the group said troops broke doors of homes and shops and set up checkpoints. The group also said Syrian troops backed by tanks stormed the southern village of Hirak and launched a wave of arrests.

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This undated photo shows French photographer Remi Ochlik, who died in Homs, Syria Wednesday, Feb. 22.

(AP)

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