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Assad's forces bombard rebel stronghold

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By The Washington Post
Saturday, June 29, 2013, 6:45 p.m.

Syrian fighter jets and heavy artillery units pounded rebel-held areas of the central city of Homs on Saturday in what activists described as the fiercest push to take full control of the city in more than a year.

The bombardment of districts, including al-Qusoor, Khalidiya, Jouret al-Shiya and the ancient Old City, began about 9 a.m. and continued for three hours before the army deployed ground troops, activists said.

The government has been pressing a campaign against pockets of resistance in central Syria since taking control this month of the town of Qusair, which lies between the city of Homs and the Lebanese border. Once known as the capital of the revolution for its early role in the uprising against President Bashar Assad, Homs is divided between government-controlled and rebel-held areas, which have been under siege for the past year.

“It's the worst day since the beginning of the siege,” said Abu Rami, a spokesman for the opposition Syrian Revolution General Commission and a resident of al-Qusoor who uses a pseudonym. “Civilians can't leave. We are trapped.”

Abu Rami said five airstrikes had accompanied heavy shelling from tanks Saturday morning before the army and militiamen from the paramilitary National Defense Forces, mounted an offensive.

Video footage posted online Saturday showed thick plumes of smoke rising over the city to the sound of explosions.

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