Ferocious assault on Syria's Homs kills civilians



DAMASCUS- Air raids on Homs killed a woman and two children on Sunday, monitors said, as Syrian government forces pressed a ferocious assault on rebel-held parts of the city dubbed the "capital of the revolution".
As the violence raged, the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council and the European Union meeting in Bahrain called for a political solution to Syria's conflict, while regional powerhouse Saudi Arabia urged the EU to arm the opposition.
Homs, the third largest city in Syria, was one of the first to join the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad's regime more than two years ago.



Ferocious assault on Syria's Homs kills civilians
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that in addition to the three civilians, at least 24 regime force members had been killed in the latest fighting in Homs.
On the second day of a major assault on the central city, "Syrian warplanes carried out air strikes on the Old City... destroying a house and causing three deaths," said the Observatory.
"Regime forces also carried out heavy shelling of the districts of Khaldiyeh and the Old City, and the sound of explosions could be heard."
Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said the woman and two children were killed in the strikes on the Old City, and that dozens of people had been injured.
"The army is continuing its attempt to enter Khaldiyeh, but it hasn't succeeded so far," he said.
Speaking to AFP over the Internet, an opposition activist in Homs said government forces had not entered Khaldiyeh on Sunday but were still bombarding the district.
"Hundreds of soldiers are involved in the offensive. I think it will last for a week or two because the regime is determined to enter at any price," said the activist who only identified himself as Yazan.
The Observatory said troops were also targeting the rebel bastions of Bab Hud, Hamidiyeh and Bustan al-Diwan, calling the bombardments "unprecedented".
British Foreign Secretary William Hague called on Syria's regime to cease its "brutal" assault.
"It is clear that Assad is not interested in peace for Syria but rather is prepared to kill tens of thousands of innocent people and deprive millions more of humanitarian aid rather than work for a resolution of this conflict which has already killed too many," said Hague.
"I call upon the Assad regime to cease its brutal assault on Homs and to allow full humanitarian access to the country. The violence must end and those responsible must be held to account."
In Manama, EU foreign police chief Catherine Ashton and the foreign ministers of Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia pledged to pool their efforts to help bring peace to Syria.
They underscored "the utmost urgency of finding a political settlement of the Syrian conflict" and vowed to "spare no efforts" to help convene a conference on Syria, which the US and Russia have been striving to hold in Geneva.
There was no mention of an oft-repeated demand by Gulf Arab powerbrokers Saudi Arabia and Qatar to arm the opposition.
But Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal insisted the EU should do so "immediately" while urging the international community to take steps "to ban the supply of weapons" to Damascus from its allies Iran and Russia.
On the ground, the army "made qualitative new advances in the city of Homs amid fierce clashes with armed militias in Khaldiyeh and Bab Hud," said pro-government daily Al-Watan.
The opposition National Coalition appealed late on Saturday for "battalions of the Free Syrian Army to come to the aid of Homs with all means possible".
It also called on backers of the uprising to establish a no-fly zone and launch air strikes against regime military bases.
Elsewhere, the Observatory said at least six people were killed when rebels in Aleppo province shot down a helicopter.
The official SANA news agency gave a higher toll of seven education ministry employees plus the crew, and said the helicopter had been "targeted by terrorists".
Damascus uses the term "terrorists" for mainly Sunni Muslim rebels who are fighting to oust the Assad regime dominated by the Alawite sect of Shiite Islam.
More than 100,000 are estimated to have been killed in the conflict, which flared when Assad loyalists launched a bloody crackdown on pro-reform protests in March 2011.
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Monday, July 1st 2013
AFP
           


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