Middle East

Syrian troops advance in Homs

Smoke rises after what activists said was shelling by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in Homs April 29, 2013. Picture taken April 29, 2013. REUTERS/Yazan Homsy (SYRIA - Tags: CONFLICT POLITICS)

BEIRUT: Regime forces made a new concerted push on Homs Thursday, in an effort to rout rebel strongholds in the city, activists said.

The old neighborhood of the city is now almost completely surrounded by army forces, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an activist network, said, after regime troops took over large parts of the Wadi al-Sayeh neighborhood.

This area is vital as it connects the besieged neighborhoods of Old Homs to the Khaldiyeh neighborhood, the Observatory – which is based in Britain, but which has a large network of informants on the ground – said.

There are more than 800 families living within this now surrounded area, who have been living under siege for over a year. Now, they are living under “increased risk and existential threat,” the Observatory said.

“There are fears of sectarian attacks of murder against the families and the rebels in the old neighborhoods if the regime forces and its militias take over,” it added.

Rockets again fell in central Damascus Thursday, a day after President Bashar Assad made a rare public appearance in the capital. On Wednesday, bombs exploded in central Damascus for a third day in a row.

State media said Wednesday’s bombs, which exploded in Khaled Bin Walid street and the nearby Bab Mesalla square, were planted by “terrorists.” One 10-year-old child was killed in the bombings, and at least 28 wounded, SANA added.

By mid-afternoon Thursday, at least 43 people had been killed across Syria, according to the Local Coordination Committees, another activist group. That figure included one women, and two children, and 10 in the capital and its suburbs.

Regime shelling was also reported Thursday in Deir Azzor, Aleppo, Hama and Idlib, the LCC added.

On the northern Syrian border, five Turkish border guards were wounded in clash with an armed group which one Turkish official described as smugglers but an opposition activist suggested may have included rebel fighters.

"It started as a minor stone-and-stick clash when our security forces warned Syrians," who were trying to cross the common border in large numbers, said Abdulhakim Ayhan, mayor of the border town of Akcakale, according to AFP.

On the diplomatic level, officials said Wednesday that Lakhdar Brahimi is keen to resign as the United Nations-Arab League envoy to Syria, as efforts to secure a political solution to the crisis seem less and less feasible as the days go on.

In mid April, Brahimi said that, "Every day I wake up, I think I should resign," he said. "But I haven't so far. One day, perhaps, one day I will resign, and I assure you, you will find out." – With agencies





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