Homs rebels resist Syria army fierce onslaught

July 02, 2013

The Daily Star

BEIRUT: President Bashar Assad’s troops pressed a fierce three-day assault against rebels in the central city of Homs Monday but failed to make any new advances, opposition activists said.

Fighting between rebels and regime loyalists raged on the edges of some 14 rebel-held districts, the British based opposition-aligned Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Hezbollah fighters from neighboring Lebanon were fighting alongside government forces on one of the city’s main fronts, it added.

“The shelling of Homs rebel areas continues, and it is fierce,” Observatory director Rami Abdel-Rahman said.

“But the army has made no advances. They haven’t been able to take any new areas back.”

His group reported that the army was shelling the Khaldiyeh and Old City districts which have been under tight army siege for more than a year.

“Clashes raged on the edges of the districts. The army and [pro-regime militia] National Defense Force lost 32 men in two days,” Abdel-Rahman said.

“We can confirm now that Hezbollah is taking part in the fighting on the Khaldiyeh front, and that they are using the [majority Alawite neighborhood of] Zahra as a base,” he added.

Opposition activist with the Syrian Revolution General Command, Abu Rami told The Daily Star it was the most ferocious assault the city had seen.

“They are trying to kick the rebels out of about 14 districts,” he said, adding that so far the rebels had managed to hold ground.

“About 20 Assad soldiers and militia have been killed, but on our side there have also been about 30 casualties,” he said via Skype.

“It seems this is the worst campaign on the besieged districts of Homs.”

The opposition Syrian National Council urged the international community to intervene, also calling on other rebel fighters to join the defense.

“The Coalition calls on all battalions of the Free Syrian Army to come to the aid of Homs in all means possible,” it said in a statement.

“We also emphasize the need for immediate, effective and decisive action by the Friends of Syria group, through the establishment of a no-fly zone.”

Meanwhile Arab states in the Gulf urged the U.N. Security Council to hold an emergency meeting to prevent a “massacre” in Homs.

In a statement, the six Gulf Cooperation Council members announced they are “following with deep concern … the unjust siege Syrian regime forces are imposing on Homs … with military support from the militias of the [Shiite] Lebanese Hezbollah movement and under the umbrella of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.”

The six Gulf monarchies – Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia – urged the “Security Council to urgently meet to break the siege on Homs and prevent the Syrian regime and its allies from committing horrific massacres.”

Dubbed the “capital of the revolution” by activists, Homs is important because it is on the road linking Damascus to the coast and its central location is also key as a supply route.

Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, reiterated its call for a U.N. resolution “banning the supply of arms to the Syrian regime which has lost all it legitimacy.”It urged the international community to “protect the Syrian people and help them defend themselves against the heinous crimes carried out” by Assad’s regime “with help of foreign forces.”

In a statement after the weekly Cabinet meeting chaired by Crown Prince Salman bin Abdel-Aziz, the government urged the European Union to “immediately implement” its decision to lift an embargo on weapons destined for Syrian rebels.

In Hama province, north of Homs, the Observatory said four members of the government’s civilian militias, the National Defense Forces were killed in an suicide bombing in Saboura. SANA news agency said the blast killed three civilians and wounded 18, including women and children.

Elsewhere, the army kept up its shelling of rebel areas in and near Damascus as it tried to secure the capital, the Observatory said.

On Sunday alone, at least 84 people were killed nationwide, 22 of them civilians.

Source: The Daily Star.

Link: http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Middle-East/2013/Jul-02/222250-homs-rebels-resist-syria-army-fierce-onslaught.ashx.

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