Syrian jets bomb area near Homs to break rebel siege

AMMAN Tue Oct 30, 2012 3:16pm IST

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AMMAN (Reuters) - Syrian warplanes bombed rebel positions on the outskirts of the central city of Homs on Tuesday to try to break a siege of an army base housing dozens of soldiers, opposition activists said.

Two rebels were killed and 10 wounded at al-Mubarkiyeh, a village 6 km (4 miles) south of Homs, where rebels have besieged a compound guarding a tank maintenance facility, they said.

Opposition sources said the facility had been used to shell Sunni Muslim villages near the Lebanese border.

There was no word on Syrian army casualties in the fighting, which followed a failed four-day truce proposed by peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi to mark the Eid al-Adha Muslim holiday.

The truce lasted only a few hours and Eid al-Adha ended on Monday with a wave of air strikes on Sunni regions where rebels have slowly made gains. Clashes raged on across the country.

"The warplanes hit al-Mubarkiyeh five times this morning. Army bulldozers had already razed the village in March," said activist Nader al-Husseini by telephone from near the area.

Syria's military, stretched thin by the struggle to keep control, has made increasing use of air power against opposition areas, including those in the main cities of Damascus and Aleppo. Insurgents lack effective anti-aircraft weapons.

Al-Mubarkiyeh was one several Sunni areas in and around Homs flattened by the army after troops captured the rebel-held Baba Amr neighbourhood in February. Rebels have since re-established a foothold in nearby farmland, trying to cut army supply lines.

Most of Homs's one million residents have fled since the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad began in March. It is home to majority Sunnis as well as members of Assad's Shi'ite-related Alawite sect which has dominated power since the 1960s. (Reporting by Khaled Yacoub Oweis, Amman newsroom; Editing by Alistair Lyon)

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