Syrian ground forces have continued their offensive on the rebel city of Homs, mopping up the last pockets of resistance, a security source said on Wednesday, as the army bombardment resulted in a wounded opposition member.
Soldiers shot and wounded a member of the Syrian National Council, the country’s largest opposition group. The activist had slipped into the besieged city of Homs, his hometown, to document army bombardments, he told Reuters on Wednesday.
“I was putting up flags in Karm al-Zeitoun with other activists in preparation for a rally when two soldiers came in a yellow taxi, got out and started shooting at us,” Mulham al-Jundi said.
“They hit me in the leg. Two others with me were badly injured,” said Jundi, who filmed himself at a makeshift clinic in the city.
As many as 104 people were killed in the shelling of opposition strongholds by Syrian forces on Tuesday, activists told Al Arabiya, including 35 in the Halfaya massacre in Hama and 26 others in another massacre committed by the Syrian forces in Baba Amro district of Homs.
Heavy shelling was reported in Baba Amro on Wednesday, according to Al Arabiya.
Activists at the Local Coordination Committees told Al Arabiya that the Syrian troops stormed Deraa and launched a wide scale military campaign in Deir Ezzor.
Meanwhile, a human rights watchdog and an activist in the central city denied that troops had moved into the rebel neighborhood of Baba Amro, pounded by regime shelling for 26 straight days, insisting that clashes were continuing on the outskirts.
“The area is under control,” the security source told AFP in Damascus, requesting anonymity.
“The army has started combing the area building by building and house by house. Now the troops are searching every basement and tunnel for arms and terrorists.
“There remain only few pockets” of resistance, the source added.
But the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that rebel forces were “preventing an attempt to storm” the neighborhood.
The Britain-based watchdog said gunfire could be heard in several districts of the city.
Homs-based activist Hadi Abdullah reported clashes and heavy shelling of Baba Amr but insisted that ground troops had not entered the neighborhood.
“Regime forces did not enter Baba Amro until this moment. They are surrounding the district, while clashes are concentrated in the neighborhoods of Inshaat and Malaab,” he told AFP.
Abdullah said activists were “evacuating families because shelling has been targeting places that were considered safe in the past.”
Earlier on Wednesday, activists on the ground in Syria’s third-largest city said that elite troops of the Fourth Armored Division under the command of Assad’s brother Maher had taken up position with their armor around Baba Amro.
Abdullah told AFP by telephone that it was a likely prelude to a final assault.
Access to Homs has now been completely sealed off, according to rebel commanders, who said the regular army had also blown up an underground aqueduct that had been the last viable route for smuggling in desperately needed supplies.
Abdullah said power had been cut to most of the city; a measure he said was another sign of possible looming attack.
Efforts to bring out Le Figaro journalist Edith Bouvier, who is trapped inside Baba Amro with multiple fractures, intensified after her British colleague Paul Conroy was successfully smuggled out to Lebanon on Monday night.
“We expect the government in Damascus to put all the conditions in place for a safe and rapid evacuation, in particular an immediate ceasefire in Baba Amro,” said French foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero.
Thirteen Syrian activists were killed trying to help Bouvier and Conroy and to bring in aid to Baba Amro, international activist group Avaaz said.
U.S. summons envoy
Meanwhile, the United States on Wednesday summoned Syria’s envoy in Washington to express “outrage” over his government’s month-long bombardment of Homs.
During talks at the State Department with Syrian Charge d’Affaires Zuheir Jabbour, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Jeffrey Feltman also urged Syria to live up to its November 2 commitment to the Arab League to end such violence.
The meeting was “to express our outrage over the month-long campaign of brutality and indiscriminate shelling of the city of Homs,” the State Department said in a statement.
Feltman, the assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, “urged the regime to comply with its Nov. 2 commitment to the Arab League to end such violence and remove its military from cities and residential areas.”
He also urged President Bashar al-Assad “to accept the Arab League plan for a peaceful transition of power in Syria,” according to the statement.