Syrian Jets Attack Rebel-Held Neighborhoods in Homs, Group Says

Syrian fighter jets and ground forces attacked rebel-held neighborhoods in the city of Homs as forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad pressed their offensive across the country.

The Syrian army brought in reinforcements during the past week as it tries to seize areas in the city under rebel control, the Coventry, U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on its Facebook page today. The Khaldiya, Qusoor and Jourat al-Shayyah neighborhoods were under “violent regime bombardment,” the group said.

Assad, supported by the Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah, dealt the opposition a series of strategic blows this month. His troops this week captured Tal Kalakh, a town west of Homs, cutting off another arms transfer route for the opposition. Rebel forces retreated after more than four days of fighting. Hezbollah, which the U.S. and Israel classify as a terrorist group, is backed by Iran.

Tal Kalakh is near to the Lebanese border and the Homs-Tartous highway. Earlier this month rebel forces lost al-Qusair, a city about 30 kilometers (19 miles) from Homs, cutting their supplies from Lebanon. After al-Qusair’s fall, Assad’s troops, backed by Hezbollah militiamen, headed north to the nation’s commercial capital of Aleppo and to Damascus.

Syrian government forces “continued pursuing armed terrorist groups” in the Khaldiya neighborhood in Homs “to restore security and stability to the neighborhood.” the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency reported today, citing an unidentified official. The Syrian army also destroyed weapons and killed and injured rebels in towns and villages in the Damascus southern countryside, the news service said.

Civilians Die

The U.S. and 10 other nations have pledged to increase support for opposition forces in Syria, without saying what specific steps they would take or how much firepower may be needed. More than 100,000 people have died since the uprising against Assad began in 2011, half of them civilians, according to the Observatory.

Russia has said supplying weapons to Syrian rebels threatens peace talks planned for July. It also asked for a United Nations probe on the reported supply of Libyan weapons to Syria, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said today in televised remarks.

Any movement of arms from Libya to the Syrian opposition fighters would be in violation of the arms embargo, Lavrov said. He also dismissed “rumors” of Russia closing its embassy in Damascus.

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