Assad's forces seize Homs district from rebels: activists

BEIRUT Sat Dec 29, 2012 7:39am EST

View of damaged buildings are seen in Al-khalidiya neighbourhood of Homs December 20, 2012. Picture taken December 20, 2012. REUTERS/Thair Al-Khalidieh/Shaam News Network/Handout

View of damaged buildings are seen in Al-khalidiya neighbourhood of Homs December 20, 2012. Picture taken December 20, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Thair Al-Khalidieh/Shaam News Network/Handout

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BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syrian government forces have pushed rebels from a district in Homs after several days of fierce fighting in the strategically important city, opposition activists said on Saturday.

The army moved into Deir Ba'alba, a neighborhood on the northeastern edge of Homs, they said, leaving the rebels controlling just the central neighborhoods around the old city and the district of Khalidiyah, immediately to the north.

Homs, in central Syria, was the scene earlier this year of some of the heaviest fighting in the 21-month uprising against President Bashar al-Assad which has killed at least 45,000 people, according to activist tallies.

On the junction of roads linking Assad's power base in Damascus to the heartlands of his Alawite minority in the port city of Tartous and Latakia province, Homs has strategic value in his battle with the mainly Sunni Muslim rebels.

There were unconfirmed reports that dozens of fighters had been killed in the battle for Deir Ba'alba, the director of the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Rami Abdelrahman, said.

Rebels have been gaining ground in recent months, particularly in the northern provinces of Aleppo and Idlib, and launched an offensive in the central Hama province which would extend their control south towards Homs and Damascus.

But an activist in Hama province said on Saturday that the army had reinforced its positions in the town of Morek, which lies on the main north-south highway linking Damascus to Aleppo, to push back rebels who were running low on ammunition.

A rebel attack on the military base of Wadi Deif, further north on the same highway, had also slowed as rebels struggled to maintain supplies, the activist who used the name Ali al-Idlibi told Reuters by Skype.

He also said Assad's forces had bombarded the provincial town of Karnaz in Hama on Saturday, killing 10 people. Other activists said 12 people were wounded, with no fatalities. It is not possible to verify reports from Syria because authorities restrict media operations in the country.

Activists also said a Palestinian fighter who had been a prominent figure in the armed wing of the Palestinian militant group Hamas was killed in Aleppo province on Friday.

Mohammed Qanita was killed in fighting around Aleppo airport where he had been helping to train Arab and Muslim fighters, a rebel said.

A Hamas source in Gaza said Qanita had left the Qassam Brigade of Hamas and joined a jihadi group before leaving for Syria to fight there.

The exiled leadership of Hamas was based in Damascus until earlier this year, when officials from the Sunni Islamist movement, which sympathises with the uprising against Assad, quietly pulled out.

(Reporting by Dominic Evans in Beirut and Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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Comments (3)
Slammy wrote:
It is interesting how the Syrian government keeps liberating areas it claims were cleansed of “terrorists” months ago. Good thing the whole war is a lie, very few in Syria know there is any fighting at all and 98% of the Syrian population loves the regime. Otherwise the Cowardly Lion might be in real trouble.

Dec 29, 2012 4:23pm EST  --  Report as abuse
Starting from February 2011, for many years, each and every crisis in the world will look like Syria. Cold-War like proxy wars of atrocities with black troops of major powers engaged in the background. All because arogant superpower US breached UN security council resolution concerning small and irrelevant country of Libya, just to show Obama has balls. From that moment there is deep distrust on China and Russia side, and forget about ANY important resolution at UN apart from humanitarian bla, bla till the latter 2 has much stronger military. Was it worth poor Kadafi’s head ? After all he was just a colourful bird in a dull world of 30+ cruel dictators.

Dec 29, 2012 6:48pm EST  --  Report as abuse
BraveNewWrld wrote:
Wantunbiasednew wrote:
“… US breached UN security council resolution concerning small and irrelevant country of Libya, just to show Obama has balls.”

Yes, indeed, +100.
It would have been much better, though, if what was shown would have been brain. The “show of balls” is truly ugly.

Dec 30, 2012 1:42pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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