Nightly News | February 18, 2012
>>> over the crisis in syria . the widespread violence there has now reached the capitoal of damascus. fresh bloodshed was seen near the embattled president's compound. we get the latest from richard engel .
>> reporter: it started out today as a funeral for three members of the opposition killed yesterday. but grew quickly. 5,000 swelled to 15, maybe even 30,000 opposition members say. they were mourning and protesting. and it wasn't just anywhere. but right in damascus and not far from bashar al assad 's presidential palace . maybe it was too close for comfort. because witnesses say syrian security forces lowered their weapons and fired live ammunition into the crowds. witnesses say several protesters were killed. dozens wounded. but this could pale in comparison to what may be coming in homs , syria 's third city. for two weeks city, homs has been surrounded by government troops and tanks and snipers. h homs is the strong hold of the army, a legion of defectors. government forces have shelled homs from afar and strangled it. but even this dire situation could get much worse. tonight, a leading member of the opposition, a syrian ambassador who defected and now lives in us istanbul said they'll enter the city and leading to the worst bloodshed yet.
>> the people of homs need urgent help to stop such a massacre that is going to take place.
>> reporter: more than 5,000 people have already been killed in syria . the opposition puts the toll at 8,000. and yet, not much is being done to stop it. the syrian government has called for a referendum later this month to pave the way or the more political freedoms. the opposition has dismissed the gesture calling it a stalling tactic. and says what it really needs are weapons and money and needs them urgently or it will be massac massacred. richard engel , istanbul.