A view of buildings damaged by what activists said were missiles fired by a Syrian Air Force fighter jet loyal to President Bashar Al Assad in the Akraba suburb of Damascus.
DAMASCUS: A car bomb rocked Syria’s third largest city Homs yesterday killing 15 people, state media said, as the army hammered rebel positions around Damascus in a strategic assault aimed at securing the capital.
Shell fire from Syria, meanwhile, hit a Turkish border town late on Saturday, without causing casualties. It was the first cross-border shelling since Ankara requested that Nato deploy Patriot air defence missiles on the restive frontier.
“A terrorist attack struck the Hamra district of Homs,” the state SANA news agency said, adding that it killed 15 people and wounded 24 in the government-held neighbourhood. State television said it was a car bombing.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also reported a car bombing in Homs.
“At least seven civilians were killed in a car bomb explosion near the sports stadium,” it said, adding that many of the wounded were in a critical condition and the death toll was likely to rise.
“The Hamra neighbourhood has been under regime control throughout the revolt,” Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said. “The blast hit an area where there is a large vegetable market. The closest checkpoint is some 500 metres (yards) away.”
Amateur video footage posted online by opposition activists showed the bodies of at least three victims, including a woman buried in the rubble of a building as a car burned not far away.
Another video showed an injured child lying in hospital, wailing in pain.
Straight after the attack, hundreds of people started to protest against President Bashar Al Assad, according to activists, with some blaming the regime for the bomb attack.
Homs was one of the cradles of the armed uprising against Assad’s rule, earning it the monicker of “capital of the revolution” from opposition activists.
The city suffered devastating violence early this year, but in recent months the army has opted to keep mainly Sunni Arab rebel-held districts around the centre under siege rather than launch an all-out assault.
Assad’s forces pounded rebel positions around Damascus with artillery fire and air strikes, in an offensive aimed at securing a perimeter around the capital including the main highway to the international airport that has been under sustained rebel assault, a watchdog said.
“The Syrian army has opened since Thursday morning the gates of hell to all those who even consider getting close to Damascus or of attacking the capital,” pro-regime newspaper Al-Watan said.
Fierce fighting erupted in several villages in the eastern suburbs and the army shelled rebel positions in the larger towns of Douma and Harasta, as troops sought to secure the airport highway, the Observatory said. AFP