Syrian gunners pounded an opposition stronghold where the last dispatches from a veteran American-born war correspondent chronicled the suffering of civilians caught in the relentless shelling. An intense morning barrage killed her and a French photojournalist -- two of 74 deaths reported Wednesday in Syria.
"I watched a little baby die today," Marie Colvin told the BBC from the embattled city of Homs on Tuesday in one of her final reports.
"Absolutely horrific, a 2-year-old child had been hit," added Colvin, who worked for Britain's Sunday Times. "They stripped it and found the shrapnel had gone into the left chest and the doctor said, 'I can't do anything.' His little tummy just kept heaving until he died."
Colvin and photographer Remi Ochlik were among a group of journalists who had crossed into Syria and were sharing accommodations with activists, raising speculation that government forces targeted the makeshift media center, although opposition groups had previously described the shelling as indiscriminate. At least two other Western journalists were wounded.
Hundreds have died in weeks of siege-style attacks on Homs that have come to symbolize the desperation and defiance of the nearly year-old uprising against President Bashar Assad. The Syrian military appears to be stepping up assaults to block the opposition from gaining further ground and political credibility with the West and Arab allies. Wednesday, helicopter gunships reportedly strafed mountain villages that shelter the rebel Free Syrian Army, and soldiers staged door-to-door raids in Damascus.
The bloodshed and crackdowns brought some of the most galvanizing calls for the end of Assad's rule.
"That's enough now. The regime must go," French President Nicolas Sarkozy said after the deaths of Colvin, 56, and Ochlik, 28, were confirmed. The United States and other nations have begun to examine possible military aid to the rebels.
"This tragic incident is another example of the shameless brutality of the Assad regime," U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.
"It is a city of the cold and hungry, echoing to exploding shells and burst of gunfire," Colvin wrote from Homs in what would be her last story published Feb. 19. "There are no telephones and the electricity has been cut off. Few homes have diesel for the tin stoves they rely on for heat in the coldest winter that anyone can remember." She described shrinking supplies of rice, tea and cans of tuna "delivered by a local sheik who looted them from a bombed-out supermarket."
"On the lips of everyone was the question, 'Why have we been abandoned by the world?' " she wrote. Syrian activists said that at least two other Western journalists -- French reporter Edith Bouvier of Le Figaro and British photographer Paul Conroy of the Sunday Times -- were wounded in Wednesday's shelling.
Colvin, of East Norwich, N.Y., in the Nassau County town of Oyster Bay, was a veteran foreign correspondent for the Sunday Times for two decades. She was recognizable for an eye patch worn after being wounded covering conflicts in Sri Lanka in 2001. Colvin said she would not "hang up my flak jacket," even after that wound.
"So, was I stupid? Stupid I would feel writing a column about the dinner party I went to last night," she wrote after the attack. "Equally, I'd rather be in that middle ground between a desk job and getting shot, no offense to desk jobs."