Blasts shake Homs as Syria rebels hit back

AFP , Sunday 25 Mar 2012

Al-Assad regime troops shell the city of Homs as the death toll of Saturday's attack on the flashpoint city reaches 46 including sixteen soldiers and two deserters

Bodies of children killed by Al-Assad regime troops in the Syrian central province of Homs (Photo: AP)

Powerful blasts rocked the flashpoint city of Homs on Sunday as Syria's regime pressed its assault on protest hubs, while rebels attacked a military base near the capital, activists and monitors said.

There was "heavy shelling of Khaldiyeh, Hamidiyeh and Old Homs neighbourhoods by the regime's army, and explosions shook the whole city," the Local Coordination Committees said.

In the southern town of Nawa, "tanks have entered the main streets, and heavy gunfire by regime forces is reported," said the LCC, the main opposition activist group inside Syria.

Nawa is in the southern Daraa province, where the popular uprising against President Bashar al-Assad's iron-fisted rule erupted in March 2011. Monitors say 9,100 people have been killed since then.

Near the border with Turkey, rockets were fired into the town of Aazaz as helicopters flew overhead, the LCC said in a statement sent to AFP in Beirut.

It added that rebel fighters of the Free Syrian Army blocked a highway used by the military for reinforcements and supplies to Aazaz, scene of fierce clashes for the past few weeks.

In Damascus province, rebels fired rocket-propelled grenades in an attack on a military facility at dawn before ambulances rushed to the scene, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Elsewhere, the official SANA news agency said that an "armed terrorist group" attacked a gas pipeline in the eastern region of Bir al-Jouf.

Nurredin al-Abdo, an activist in northwestern Idlib province, said night-time demonstrations were held across the region, notably in the town of Saraqeb, where monitors reported deadly clashes on Saturday.

None of the reports gave any casualty figures for Sunday.

At least 28 civilians were killed across Syria on Saturday, including two women and two children in the central province of Homs, according to the Observatory, a Britain-based monitoring group.

Sixteen soldiers and two deserters were also killed, it said, taking the day's toll to 46.

As the year-old conflict showed no signs of abating, rebel fighters set up a military council to unify their ranks and political opposition leaders called a meeting of all dissident groups to forge common objectives.

The latest violence came as UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan was in Moscow to seek the vital backing of Russia, a key ally of the Syrian regime, for his plan to end the bloodshed.

There are growing signs that Moscow is beginning to lose patience with Assad, despite his commitment to massive new Russian arms purchases and the granting of key naval access to the Mediterranean.

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