Syria army advances in Homs, car bomb kills 5: NGO
Beirut: Syrian troops advanced today into the rebel-held Khaldiyeh district of central Homs, with shelling intensifying as forces battled for a 10th day in the area, activists and an NGO said.
State media, meanwhile, reported two car bombs hit a regime-held area in the city, while the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported five killed in one car bombing.
"The ruthless campaign against Homs is continuing for the 10th day in a row. Regime forces have been able to enter parts of Khaldiyeh after heavy shelling and scorched-earth tactics," activist Abu Bilal al-Homsi said via Skype.
"The situation is similar to Qusayr," he said, referring to another key town in Homs province which was recaptured by army forces after a fierce campaign on June 5.
The activist said the army`s assault was the fiercest in Homs city since the beginning of the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad in March 2011.
He added that the army was using "every kind of deadly weapon, from planes and rocket launchers to artillery, mortars and tanks".
Homsi estimated the army controlled around 30 per cent of the district, which is north of central Homs, but the pro-regime Al-Watan newspaper said troops now controlled "most of Khaldiyeh".
"The Syrian Arab army brought most of the Khaldiyeh neighbourhood of Homs under its control," reported the daily, which is close to the Syrian government.
Both activists and the army said that regime forces had gained control of areas around the Khalid Bin Walid mosque in southern Khaldiyeh.
Videos filmed by activists showed massive destruction in area around the mosque, and the sound of heavy shelling, with blasts ringing out uninterrupted for minutes at a time.
Footage showed shells landing by the mosque`s silver domes, sending up shocks of orange sparks and billowing white smoke.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, meanwhile, reported "violent clashes between rebel fighters and regime troops and gunmen on the outskirts of Khaldiyeh".
"There is a smell of death because many bodies are buried under the rubble of buildings, and the heat is making them rot faster," said activist Abu Rami.
"The army has also used explosives that give off a disgusting smell," Abu Rami told AFP via the Internet. The United Nations has estimated some 2,500 people are trapped amid the fighting that began 10 days ago.
State media reported two car bombings in the regime-controlled Akrameh district of Homs. The Observatory also reported the attack, adding that it killed five people.
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