Insurgents continued to strike at the regime on Saturday, even launching a counter-attack from their desperate position in Homs, Syria’s third-largest city.
Opposition fighters, trapped and under threat of a ground offensive against the Old City, tried to break out in the Jub al-Jandali section. A car bombing, reportedly by the Islamist faction Jabhat al-Nusra, was followed by a ground assault that raised the prospect of an insurgent escape to the countryside.
Syrian forces eventually repulsed the attack after opposition fighters took positions in the western half of Jub al-Jandali, using airstrikes to push back the insurgents. However, dozens of troops and militiamen of the National Defense Force reportedly died.
Earlier in the week, the regime had been proclaiming its imminent victory in clearing the remaining insurgents from Homs, following months of attempts to get opposition fighters to surrender or to bomb them into submission. Syrian State media ignored the Jub al-Jandali fighting on Saturday, instead proclaiming a regime advance taking several buildings in the Bab Houd area.
Most civilians have left the Old City, with only an estimated 1,300 people remaining.
Elsewhere, insurgents maintained pressure on regime-held areas of Aleppo, with further advances claimed in the northwestern sections of Layramoun and al-Zahraa. They continued to repel Syrian forces near Mork in Hama Province, reportedly inflicting heavy losses. In the south, there was widespread fighting near Daraa city, which is divided between the insurgency and the regime.
(PHOTO: Aftermath of a car bomb in Homs last Monday — AFP/Getty)
Video: Bodies Pulled Out of Fire After Barrel Bomb in Aleppo
Aftermath of a regime airstrike on the Ba’edin district of Aleppo:
Activists say scores of people have been killed in insurgent-held areas of the city on Sunday by the bombing.
Video: Insurgents Fighting in Morek in Hama Province
Insurgents have posted footage of their defense of Morek in Hama Province against regime attacks:
The Syrian military has been trying for weeks take the town, on the M5 highway from Hama north to Idlib Province:
OPCW: Assad Regime Has Handed Over 80% of Chemical Weapons
The Assad regime has shipped out or destroyed about 80% of its declared chemical weapons material, the head of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said on Saturday.
Sigrid Kaag said that, if the pace was sustained, Syria should be able to meet an April 27 deadline to hand over all declared chemical agents.
The regime has missed previous deadlines since last autumn’s agreement for a handover, following the August 21 chemical weapons attacks near Damascus that killed hundreds of civilians.
However, it has recently said it is accelerating the transfer of stocks, amid claims that it has been using chlorine gas in attacks in Hama Province and near Damascus.
Insurgent Bloc Calls For No Shelling of Civilian Areas
The insurgent bloc Ahl al-Sham has issued a statement calling on factions not to shell civilian areas “indiscriminately”, protecting properties and lives.
Regime outlets have accused insurgents of killing civilians on a daily basis with shelling, particularly areas of Damascus. State news agency SANA claims this morning that six civilians were killed and 40 wounded by insurgent rockets and mortar shells on the al-Zahra and al-Sabil neighborhoods in Homs.
Ahl al-Sham is a recent coalition of insurgent groups formed amid the offensive in and near Aleppo.