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Syrian rebels pierce Assad's siege lines

| Monday, March 11, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Syrian rebels broke through government lines to ease a siege of their positions in the strategic city of Homs on Sunday despite coming under fierce aerial bombardment, opposition campaigners said.

The communally mixed city of Sunni Muslims and Alawites, the minority sect that has dominated Syria since the 1960s, has emerged as a major battleground in the 2-year-old uprising against President Bashar Assad. The bloodshed has claimed about 70,000 lives so far, according to the United Nations.

Homs, 88 miles north of Damascus, the capital, lies on a vital road juncture linking army bases on the Mediterranean coast, home to a large proportion of Assad's Alawites, and government forces.

In a counter-offensive, Sunni rebels punched their way through government lines in the north and west to loosen a months-long army siege on their strongholds in the center of the city, opposition sources said.

Insurgents based in the provinces advanced on Homs this weekend while brigades from rural Homs attacked government positions in its Baba Amro district.

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