independent

Sunday 20 April 2014

Warplanes hammer Homs in new push by Assad

SYRIAN warplanes and artillery have pounded the central city of Homs, subjecting the former rebel stronghold to its worst bombardment in months, activists said.

The reported bombardment by tanks and mortars as well as aircraft comes alongside a push by government forces on the embattled northern city of Aleppo.

Meanwhile, Turkey yesterday deployed troops along the border with Syria, a day after the Turkish parliament approved a bill that authorises the army to conduct operations outside the Turkish border.

The stepped-up pace of government attacks on Syrian cities suggests that the regime's forces have not been distracted by tensions with Turkey. Ankara's parliament authorised cross-border military operations after a Syrian shell killed five civilians on Turkish territory

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said yesterday's attack on Homs was the worst the city has seen in five months. The Observatory, which relies on a network of activists on the ground, said tanks and mortars as well as aircraft had bombarded the city's Khaldiya neighbourhood.

"Around dawn, the regime went crazy and started shelling hysterically," a Homs-based activist said.

"An average of five rockets a minute are falling." Abu Rami was speaking from the central rebel-held old quarter known as Old Homs.

He said the government forces were mainly firing rockets and heavy mortars at the rebel-held neighbourhoods of Old Homs, Khaldiya, Qusour and Jouret el-Shayah.

Abu Rami also said the regime forces have been shelling villages around Homs and the rebel-held town of Rastan, just north of the city.

Hiding

He said there were no immediate reports of casualties, adding that most residents who still live in rebel-held areas around the city are hiding in shelters.

Homs is Syria's third largest city. Regime forces pounded parts of Homs for months, leaving large swaths of the city in ruins by April. Since then the level of violence has dropped, although gun battles still frequently break out.

The Observatory also said the Syrian military has been shelling the neighbourhood of Sakhour in Aleppo as government forces battle rebels in the country's largest city. State-run Syrian TV said government forces "cleansed Sakhour of terrorists and mercenaries".

Irish Independent

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