Blasts rock Homs, rebels fight back
BEIRUT BLASTS rocked the flashpoint city of Homs on Sunday as Syria’s regime pressed its assault on protest hubs, while rebels attacked a military base in Damascus province, activists and monitors said.
There was “heavy shelling of Khaldiyeh, Hamidiyeh and Old Homs neighbourhoods by the regime’s army, and explosions shook the whole city,” the Local Coordination Committees said. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitoring group, said in a statement that three people were wounded in the Homs district of Safsafa.
In the city of Hama to the north, the Observatory reported that army shelling killed one civilian in the neighbourhood of Murk.
And in the southern town of Nawa, “tanks have entered the main streets, and heavy gunfire by regime forces is reported,” said the LCC, the main opposition activist group inside Syria.
Nawa is in the southern Daraa province, where the popular uprising against President Bashar al Assad’s iron-fisted rule erupted in March 2011. Monitors say 9,100 people have been killed since then.
The Observatory said an explosion hit a bridge in the Daraa region of Lajat where many army deserters are reported to be.
In the north, near the border with Turkey, rockets were fired into the town of Aazaz as helicopters flew overhead, the LCC said in a statement sent to AFP in Beirut. It added that rebel fighters of the Free Syrian Army blocked a highway used by the military for reinforcements and supplies to Aazaz, the scene of fierce clashes for the past few weeks.
In Damascus province, rebels fired rocket-propelled grenades in a dawn attack on a military facility in Nabak where ambulances rushed to the scene, said the Observatory.
Mohammed al Shami, an activist, said fighting erupted at night between soldiers and army deserters and continued into the early hours of Sunday, including in Douma, a hot spot on the capital’s northeastern outskirts.
In eastern Deir Ezzor, the security forces conducted a search and arrest operation, according to the Observatory.
Elsewhere, the official SANA news agency said that an “armed terrorist group” attacked a gas pipeline in the eastern region of Bir al Jouf.
Nurredin al Abdo, an activist in northwestern Idlib province, said night-time demonstrations were held across the region, notably in the town of Saraqeb, where monitors reported deadly clashes on Saturday.
At least 28 civilians were killed across Syria on Saturday, including two women and two children in the central province of Homs, according to the Britain-based Observatory.
Sixteen soldiers and two deserters were also killed, it said, taking the day’s toll to 46. As the year-old conflict showed no signs of abating, rebel fighters set up a military council to unify their ranks and political opposition leaders called a meeting of all dissident groups to forge common objectives.
The latest violence came as UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan was in Moscow to seek the vital backing of Russia, a key ally of the Syrian regime, for his plan to end the bloodshed.
There are growing signs that Moscow is beginning to lose patience with Assad, despite his commitment to massive new Russian arms purchases and the granting of key naval access to the Mediterranean.