AS THE horrific images of civilians killed in President Bashar al-Assad's attack on the Syrian city of Homs continue to emerge, foreign ministers and officials from 80 countries are preparing to meet in Tunis today to discuss the escalating crisis.
It is the first meeting of the ''Friends of Syria'' group, established in the aftermath of the failure of the UN Security Council to pass a resolution aimed at stopping the bloodshed.
The meeting comes two days after the bombardment of the Homs neighbourhood of Baba Amro killed 60 people, including two Western journalists - veteran Sunday Times war reporter Marie Colvin and French photographer Remi Ochlik - in what is now thought to have been a targeted attack.
The apartment block in which they were staying was hit by at least 11 rockets in just a few minutes, leaving 22 people dead, including a six-year-old child.
Omar Shakir, a Syrian who at great personal risk has been chronicling the crimes of the Assad regime via his live video feed on YouTube and Twitter, was in the house at the time of the attack.
''The shelling started at 6am. It was indiscriminate and suddenly came close to our place,'' he said.
''We tried to leave the place immediately in small groups. The first group rushed out to the other side of street and protected themselves in a nearby house. The second group was trying to get out as well when a rocket fell down on the house.
''Two of them [Ochlik and Colvin] were killed under rubble and five others including the two journalists [photographer Paul Conroy and reporter Edith Bouvier] were wounded.''
Mr Shakir again pleaded for the international community to help the people of Syria, saying at the very least medical assistance and a humanitarian corridor should be provided.
One day earlier, a well-known Homs-based citizen journalist, Rami al-Sayyed, was killed. Witnesses said he had been trying to help a family flee a mortar attack when they were hit by a shell. He had posted more than 800 videos documenting the horror in Homs.
On Tuesday, he wrote: ''Baba Amr is being exterminated … We need campaigns everywhere across the world and inside the country. People should protest in front of embassies and everywhere. Because in hours, there will be no more Baba Amr. And I expect this message to be my last.''
French President Nicolas Sarkozy said the killings were assassinations and the Assad regime had to go.
''That's enough now,'' he said. ''This regime must go and there is no reason that Syrians don't have the right to live their lives and choose their destiny freely. If journalists were not there, the massacres would be a lot worse.''
The British Foreign Office summoned Syria's ambassador to demand an end to the violence and immediate help with the repatriation of Colvin's body and treatment for Conroy.
Russia - which has used its veto in the Security Council twice to defeat resolutions aimed at ending the terror in Syria - has said it will not participate in the Friends of Syria meeting in Tunisia, while China has yet to announce its intentions. The US will attend, along with Arab League countries and the European Union.
''The failure to get a UN Security Council resolution, blame for that rests on two countries,'' US State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters. ''So the international community is fairly united in trying to help the people of Syria. The question is, what do we do?''
Opposition group the Local Coordination Committees of Syria says the death toll in Syria is nearing 9000 - the UN stopped counting in December when the toll was around 5400, saying it could no longer collect accurate figures.