Damscus — The UN observer mission in Syria yesterday expressed concern about escalating violence in the central city of Homs and said it is trying to negotiate the evacuation of civilians as helicopter gunships moved in in central and northwestern Syria in a bid to snuff out armed opposition.
“The impact from the fighting was heard and seen over the neighbourhood of Khaldiyeh in the city centre,” the UN Supervision Mission in Syria said in a statement.
“UNSMIS has also received reports of a large number of civilians, including women and children trapped inside the town and are trying to mediate their evacuation.”
It added that reports of a large number of casualties could not yet be confirmed.
Activists said Khaldiyeh and two other neighbourhoods were under siege and Red Crescent teams were blocked access.
UN observers also reported heavy fighting in Rastan and Talbisseh, north of Homs, the UN statement said.
“In Talbisseh, UN observers reported that the Free Syrian Army captured Syrian Army soldiers.”
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, at least 74 people were killed across Syria yesterday.
The rebel positions were targeted from the air in Al-Heffa, in the northwestern province of Latakia, and in Rastan, in the central region of Homs, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Government troops have been trying to to put down fighters of the Free Syrian Army deployed in the rugged countryside near the Turkish border, activists said.
Activists said yesterday’s assault was violent and described the situation in Al-Heffa as “terrible,” although there were no immediate reports of any casualties.
“Army tanks are deployed at the entrances of the town,” activist Sema Nassar said in Beirut via Skype.
Four civilians, including a girl, were killed in the violence.
Troops have trying to overrun Rastan since fighters from the battered city of Homs regrouped in the town.
Elsewhere, at least nine people were killed in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor, where rebels and regime forces clashed, while a blast in the northwestern city of Idlib killed a civilian and seven government forces.
Also in Idlib, 11 were killed, including three rebels, six government troops, two women and a teenager, according to the watchdog, while in the northern province of Aleppo, two people were killed as clashes intensified.
And after days of violence in the capital, a booby-trapped car exploded in the central district of Barzeh killing one person, the Observatory added, while gunmen shot dead a ruling Baath party official in the city suburbs. — Agencies