Syrian army recaptures symbolic Baba Amr district in Homs
BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syrian forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad recaptured the shattered Baba Amr district in central Homs on Tuesday, an opposition monitoring group said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said pro-government forces regained the district, left largely uninhabitable by fierce campaigns of rocket fire and air raids, after more than two weeks of fighting off a surprise push by rebels to retake their former bastion.
Homs, and particularly Baba Amr, was the epicenter of the armed rebellion against four decades of Assad rule. The two-year uprising, which began as peaceful protests, has since spiraled into a full scale civil war across the country.
The city, 140 km (88 miles) north of Damascus, lies on a road juncture linking army bases on the Mediterranean coast and government forces in the capital Damascus.
Rebels punched through army lines in the north and west of Homs in early March to loosen a months-long military siege on their strongholds in the centre of the Syria's third biggest city.
Baba Amr had been in army hands for a year after they crushed rebel forces who had ensconced themselves in the impoverished district.
The British-based Observatory, which has a network of activists across Syria, said residents returned to their neighborhood to find nearly all the homes destroyed by heavy shelling.
"This forced them to return as displaced people to other districts, without a place to sleep or anything to cover themselves or any of the most basic necessities of life," the Observatory said.