Syrian forces raid Homs, Damascus and Hama

Syrian forces raid Homs, Damascus and Hama

Syrian forces raid Homs, Damascus and Hama

Smoke is seen rising from Bab Amro near Homs Feb 15. Activists say the government targeted an oil pipeline with aircraft in Homs, while government blamed the terrorists. REUTERS photo

Syrian forces have launched an offensive in the city of Hama, as the shelling of opposition strongholds in the city of Homs continued, activists say. Security forces also reportedly deployed in the Damascus neighbourhood of Barzeh in the morning, raiding homes and making arrests, Al Jazeraa reported yesterday.

On the ground, however, troops launched an assault on the city of Hama, just north of Homs, where loud blasts could be heard in the Hamidiyeh and other neighborhoods, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Britain-based monitoring group, said ongoing clashes had killed 20 people, including nine civilians, in the town of Al-Atareb, northwestern Aleppo province.

Activists said troops stormed the central city of Hama and stepped up their assault on protest hubs nationwide. Further to the south, an explosion struck an oil pipeline at daybreak in the flashpoint city of Homs, with activists saying government forces bombed it from the air and state media blaming “armed terrorist gangs,” Agence France-Presse reported. Syria’s government Feb. 14 rejected U.N. charges of crimes against humanity, as monitors accused Assad’s forces of launching one of their heaviest assaults yet in a 12-day onslaught on Homs. Rights groups say more than 6,000 people have been killed since government forces launched a brutal crackdown on protests calling for democracy, which were launched 11 months ago to the day.

Gov’t attacks pipeline with aircraft: activists

The pipeline blast in Homs sent up columns of black smoke over the central city, according to footage uploaded by opposition activists to video-sharing website YouTube. Activist Hadi Abdullah said it was the third such attack on the same pipeline, although this was the first time that it was targeted with aircraft.

“Two military planes bombed a pipeline located on the edge of Baba Amr neighborhood,” said Abdullah, of the opposition General Commission of the Syrian Revolution, citing witnesses. The reported use of warplanes could not be immediately verified. The General Commission said in a statement that the pipeline runs through Baba Amr, which has born the brunt of a sustained assault on Homs by regime forces since Feb. 4. Syria’s government has attributed similar attacks to “terrorists,” but the opposition accuses it of destroying energy infrastructure to punish dissenters.