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News Wrap: Syrian Forces Assault Homs, Rastan Ahead of Cease-Fire Deadline

April 6, 2012 at 12:00 AM EST
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HARI SREENIVASAN: A looming cease-fire in Syria did nothing to halt heavy assaults on rebellious cities today. Government forces blasted away at Homs and Rastan, and tanks and snipers widened an offensive in the suburbs of Damascus. The attack on Homs sent smoke high over the city, as buildings burned and gunfire echoed in the streets.

Doctors in Rastan had to treat the wounded in a makeshift hospital. And in the north, new waves of refugees streamed into Turkey with stories of massacres and mass graves.

By the millions, Christians worldwide today marked Good Friday. The observances ranged from church services to actual reenactments of the crucifixion of Jesus.

Dozens of Filipinos marched barefoot through the village of San Pedro Cutud today, using bamboo sticks to beat themselves in penitence. Others volunteered to be nailed to crosses for a few minutes, including one man who’s taken part for 26 years. Crowds of spectators looked on, including foreign tourists.

SAMANTHA TODD, Canadian tourist: Even as a non-Christian, it’s something that — it touches you. Even though it’s not my faith, it makes me feel something inside.

HARI SREENIVASAN: There were similar acts in Mexico, where masked women in Taxco walked with feet chained and carrying heavy crosses.

In Sydney, Australia, an actor dressed as Jesus dragged a large cross, as police and security guards replaced Roman soldiers.

MAN: Make way for the king of the Jews. Make way for the son of God. Crucify him!

HARI SREENIVASAN: Communist Cuba honored a request that Pope Benedict the XVI made there last week and declared Good Friday an official holiday for the first time in 50 years.

And, in Jerusalem, thousands of pilgrims flocked to the Old City to walk the route they believe Jesus took to his death.

JEROLD DOYAL, pilgrim from Ireland: So it’s a sense of feeling, of feeling belonging and identity.

HARI SREENIVASAN: This year, Good Friday also coincided with the Jewish celebration of Passover. Israeli troops closed off the West Bank to guard against attacks by Palestinian militants.

A U.S. Navy fighter plane crashed into an apartment complex in Virginia Beach, Va., today, leaving a building in flames. The pilots ejected, and officials were still accounting for everyone on the ground. But black smoke billowed from the building after the plane’s impact, as firefighters worked to douse the flames. There was no immediate word on the cause of the crash.

Those are some of the day’s major stories.