[QODLink]
Middle East

Fierce clashes rage in Syrian city of Homs

Government forces fire machine guns and launch air strike on Baba Amr neighbourhood which rebels claim to have captured.
Last Modified: 11 Mar 2013 21:05
The Baba Amr district of Homs has been the scene of many battles between regime forces and the rebels [AFP]

Syrian forces have fired heavy machine guns and launched at least one airstrike on a neighbourhood in the central city of Homs that rebels claimed to have seized.

Monday’s fresh fighting raged in and around the Baba Amr district, sending civilians in nearby neighborhoods fleeing the area.

Baba Amr, a poor neighbourhood on the southwest side of Syria's third largest city, was a centre of opposition to President Bashar al-Assad early in the uprising that began two years ago.

Last year, government forces besieged Baba Amr for a month before rebel forces withdrew and the government seized control on March 1. Hundreds of people were killed in the violence, including two foreign journalists.

It was unclear how much of the neighbourhood rebels had seized on Sunday or continued to hold on Monday.

An activist in Homs reached via Skype on Monday said rebel fighters made a surprise entry into Baba Amr the previous morning and quickly took over seven government checkpoints in and near the neighbourhood, seizing a good part of the area.

The government struck back on Monday, carrying out an airstrike, shelling the area and sending reinforcements, he said.

'Symbol of the revolution'

Another activist from Baba Amr, who is now in Lebanon, said rebels had taken the whole neighbourhood and were focused on holding it despite the government's harsh counter attack.

He said it was very important to the regime militarily and as a symbol, so rebels are excited that this symbol of the revolution has been retaken. Both activists spoke on condition of anonymity out of concerns for their safety.

An activist posted video online that appeared to show dozens of civilians, most of them women and children, fleeing the neighbourhood.

The Syrian state news agency said the army had responded to "terrorists who sneaked into Baba Amr in Homs and committed crimes against people," killing a number of them. It said the army continued to pursue those remaining in the area.

The Syrian government blames the civil war on a foreign-backed conspiracy, calling the rebels "terrorists" bent on destroying the country.

In Brussels, European Union foreign ministers met to discuss ways to end the violence in Syria. They were expected to discuss ending the EU's blanket arms embargo against the country to make it easier for sympathetic nations to send arms to the rebels.

Many EU diplomats, however, say more weapons will only exacerbate the situation.

Syrian General Salim Idris, a defector who now heads the rebels' High Military Council, travelled to Brussels last week to plead for arms from the international community.

446

Source:
Agencies
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
At least 25 tax collectors have been killed since 2012 in Mogadishu, a city awash in weapons and abject poverty.
Tokyo government claims its homeless population has hit a record low, but analysts - and the homeless - beg to differ.
3D printers can cheaply construct homes and could soon be deployed to help victims of catastrophe rebuild their lives.
Lack of child protection laws means abandoned and orphaned kids rely heavily on the care of strangers.
Featured
Booming global trade in 50-million-year-old amber stones is lucrative, controversial, and extremely dangerous.
Legendary Native-American High Bird was trained in ancient warrior traditions, which he employed in World War II.
Hounded opposition figure says he's hoping for the best at sodomy appeal but prepared to return to prison.
Fears of rising Islamophobia and racial profiling after two soldiers killed in separate incidents.
Group's culture of summary justice is back in Northern Ireland's spotlight after new sexual assault accusations.