Syrian army assaults rebel district in Homs

Assad's forces continue 25-day siege on the rebel-held Baba Amro neighborhood, attempt to insert infantry, opposition says.

Homs after bombardment 390 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Homs after bombardment 390
(photo credit: REUTERS)
AMMAN - Syrian troops launched a ground attack in Homs on Wednesday in an apparent attempt to overrun the rebel-held Baba Amro neighborhood that has endured 25 days of siege and fierce bombardment, opposition sources said.
"The army is trying to go in with infantry from the direction of al-Bassel football field and fierce confrontations with automatic rifles and heavy machine guns are taking place there," activist Mohammad al-Homsi told Reuters from Homs.
He said the military had shelled Baba Amro heavily on Tuesday and overnight before the ground attack started.
Several Western journalists are trapped in the battered district, although Syrian activists escorted British photographer Paul Conroy to safety in nearby Lebanon on Tuesday in a messy escape in which some of his rescuers were killed.
Reports from Baba Amro could not immediately be verified due to tight government restrictions on media work in Syria, where President Bashar Assad is struggling to repress an almost year-long uprising against his 11-year rule.
Activists say hundreds of civilians have been killed in besieged opposition districts of Homs, including at least 20 on Tuesday. Shells and rockets have been crashing into Baba Amro since Feb. 4. Army snipers pick off civilians who venture out.
The International Committee of the Red Cross and its local partner, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, have been pushing for a ceasefire to enable them to extricate wounded civilians and bring in desperately needed supplies of food and medicine.
The United Nations says Assad's security forces have killed more than 7,500 civilians since the revolt began last March.
"There are credible reports that the death toll now often exceeds 100 civilians a day, including many women and children," UN Under-Secretary-General for political affairs Lynn Pascoe told the UN Security Council on Tuesday. "The total killed so far is certainly well over 7,500 people."
Syria's government said in December that "armed terrorists" had killed over 2,000 soldiers and police during the unrest.