The intense bombardment has claimed nearly 100 lives since Monday morning, with a field hospital being struck by shells.
Today the regime vowed it will continue to pursue the “terrorists” who are “threatening” citizens in Homs.
Meanwhile today Russian foreign minster Sergei Lavrov arrived in Damascus for talks with Mr Assad.
The army is targetting areas of Homs where rebels from the Free Syrian Army have a strong presence, notably the district of Baba Amr.
Hundreds of shells and mortar bombs were reported to be falling every hour, while the insurgents were unable to retaliate with anything more effective than small arms fire.
Abu Qatada, a radical Muslim cleric once described as “Osama bin Laden’s right-hand man in Europe”, will be released on bail within days after the Special Immigration Appeals Commission was forced to heed the ruling from Strasbourg that he could not be deported to Jordan because of the risk that evidence obtained using torture could be used against him.
The bail conditions will be similar to those set in 2008, with the cleric confined to his home for all but two one-hour periods each day. He will also be allowed to take one of his five children to school.
Restrictions on his movement, however, could be lifted if the Home Secretary fails to show within three months that progress is being made in negotiations with Jordan regarding his extradition
David Anderson, the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, said Qatada could only be subject to a new type of control order known as a TPIM for a maximum of two years before it expires.
Last week I was in town buying a duvet cover from John Lewis. Not a gripping opening sentence, but bear with me. I got back to my car and witnessed a well-spoken middle-aged man wearing a beautifully tailored suit and standing next to a 2011 reg £70,000 BMW screaming at a parking warden (Parking Enforcement Officer, sorry).The guy had apparently left his car on a single yellow for less than five minutes in order to pick up some medicine for his elderly mother from the chemist. The anger and language was the most ferocious thing I’ve ever seen in real life. This man just went to town – primarily racism (the PEO was black#, but also including physical appearance, wealth or lack thereof, his mother, homophobia, terrorism seriously), and an array of swearwords that would do Chris Rock proud. Think ‘tram lady’ but add 60 pounds, make it a man and give it an Etonian accent. And the PEO just stood there in the pissing rain with his oversized uniform and took it. He didn’t say a word. He simply finished printing out the ticket, stuck it to the windscreen and walked away with, incredibly, the slightest hint of a smile on his face. It was, it seemed, just another day at the office for him.
Much speculation this morning on whether the PM will finally cut his losses over either or both the NHS reform bill and Andrew Lansley. For those of us who have been mystified from the start by David Cameron’s apparently unquestioned devotion to Mr Lansley, first as shadow health spokesman and then as Cabinet Health Secretary, there can be only one question to ask: what on earth took you so long?
The acute dilemmas facing Western governments over Syria illustrate how foreign policy can often be the art of the impossible. The essential problem is that Britain and her allies have two incompatible objectives: they want to hasten the downfall of President Assad, while also bringing the country’s bloodshed to an end. You can’t do both at the same time.
Accelerating the end of a regime as ruthless as Syria’s will inevitably entail more violence. If you choose this option, you are effectively placing Assad’s political demise ahead of the need for peace.
The case for the defence will be that removing the regime is the crucial precondition for restoring stability in Syria. Assad’s presence in office is the chief cause of the violence, so if you care about peace, he has to go. But there are two problems with this argument: 1) getting rid of Assad will probably involve a protracted and bloody struggle and 2) there is no guarantee that harmony will break out when he finally departs.
Rachel Sylvester reports today on the remarkable hostility to Andrew Lansley in some parts of Downing Street, where at least one Cameron aide thinks he “should be taken out and shot”. I’ve summarised the latest on the prospects of the health Bill in my morning briefing. There’s also some idle thinking given to replacing the Health Secretary with Alan Milburn, who would be catapulted into Cabinet via a peerage. All this fuels the idea that the NHS Bill might be dumped to kill off a source of continuing discontent with the Coalition. The Bill is back in the Lords tomorrow, where trouble is expected. All the medical professions have come out against it. The Tory advantage on health in the polls has evaporated. Mr Cameron is now opposed by the nurses and doctors in a way that the public might begin to notice. On the surface it might look like a situation ripe for another tactical retreat.