Syria’s Assad tours wrecked flashpoint Homs neighborhood, meets supporters

Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, walking slowly through the streets under light rain, saw shattered and burned out buildings in the flashpoint Baba Amro neighborhood. (Al Arabiya)

Embattled Syrian president Bashar al-Assad toured the flashpoint Baba Amro neighborhood of Homs on Tuesday, telling a group of supporters “life will return to normal” in the city.

The appearance, broadcast on Syrian state television, showed Assad wearing an open-necked shirt with a blue suit as he walked casually through the streets of the neighborhood.

The Baba Amro district has been devastated by months of shelling and gunfire and was reclaimed by regime forces earlier this month after 26 days of heavy bombardment.

“Life will return to normal in Baba Amro, better than it was before,” Assad told a group of people shouting support for the president.

Activists say hundreds of civilians and opponents of Assad were killed in opposition areas of Homs in February by army shelling and snipers.

Assad, walking slowly through the streets under light rain, saw shattered and burned out buildings. He waved and smiled to small crowds who came out to greet him.

“The president has toured Baba Amro in Homs,” the state television reported.

It added that Assad had inspected the troops stationed in the neighborhood.

A spokesman for peace envoy Kofi Annan, representing the United Nations and the Arab League, said on Tuesday Assad had accepted basic terms of a peace plan that calls for national dialogue and does not hinge on his agreement to leave office and give up power.

“He thinks he won and scored a great victory,” said opposition activist Saif Hurria, speaking by telephone from Homs.

“He wants to show the world he defeated and put down a revolution. But in fact he can’t control Homs ... It seems he can’t even release the video until he has left Homs. That is not control.”

According to monitors, more than 9,100 people have been killed across the country in the revolt that broke out last March.

Meanwhile, Syrian troops crossed into Lebanon on Tuesday, destroying farm buildings and clashing with Syrian rebels who had taken refuge there, residents and local security sources said.

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