BEIRUT -- Food and water are running dangerously low in the besieged Syrian city of Homs, with frantic cries for help from residents amid government shelling that pounded rebel strongholds and killed at least 30 people yesterday, activists said.

Shells reportedly rained down on rebellious districts at a rate of 10 per minute at one point and the Red Cross called for a daily two-hour cease-fire so that it can deliver emergency aid to the wounded and sick.

"If they don't die in the shelling, they will die of hunger," activist and resident Omar Shaker told The Associated Press after hours of intense shelling concentrated on the rebel-held neighborhood of Baba Amr that the opposition has extolled as a symbol of their 11-month uprising against President Bashar Assad's regime.

Another 33 people were killed in northern Syria's Jabal al-Zawiya region when government forces raided a town in pursuit of regime opponents, raising yesterday's overall death toll to 63, activists said. The Local Coordination Committees, an opposition group, said more than 100 were killed yesterday, but that report could not immediately be confirmed.

Russia, one of Assad's remaining allies, urged the United Nations to send a special envoy to Syria to help coordinate security issues and delivery of humanitarian assistance.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration opened the door slightly to international military assistance for Syria's rebels, with officials saying new tactics may have to be explored if Assad continues to defy pressure to halt the brutal crackdown on dissenters.

The White House and State Department said they still hope for a political solution. But faced with the daily onslaught by the Assad regime against civilians, officials dropped the administration's previous strident opposition to arming anti-regime forces. It remained unclear, though, what, if any, role the United States might play in providing such aid.

"We don't want to take actions that would contribute to the further militarization of Syria because that could take the country down a dangerous path," White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters. "But we don't rule out additional measures if the international community should wait too long and not take the kind of action that needs to be taken."

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