The State Department has closed the American embassy in Damascus in response to the failure of diplomacy and the deteriorating security situation in Syria. Violence there has brought the nation to edge of a sectarian war between the ruling Alawites and majority Sunni population.
Shelling of rebellious cities and civilian protesters has intensified following last week's Chinese and Russian veto of a United Nations Security Council vote condemning the regime. Dictator Bashar al-Assad has also released a leading al-Qaida ideologue as a gesture to the West about the consequences of the fall of his regime.
The BBC reports that the Syrian government has launched its fiercest attack yet on the rebel stronghold of Homs, shelling homes and launching rockets into the city for the first time. The regime blamed "terrorist gangs" for the destruction of the buildings.
The UN registered 5,400 casualties in 11-month uprising, but stopped counting during the latest and most deadly outbreak of assaults by the Syrian regime. Rebels estimate that the figure has quickly climbed above 7,000.
The Telegraph reports that Syria's government also Abu Musab al-Suri, al-Qaida's former European operations chief, confirming persistent rumors about his release on jihadi forums. The move, which may be meant as a threat to the West, does not take into account the calls al-Qaida-aligned terrorists to wage war against the Syrian regime.