Opposition activists in Homs say anti-government forces were forced onto the defensive in Syria’s third-largest city Tuesday, as fighters under President Bashar Assad launched their latest brutal assault to expel the rebels who remain.
Some of the hundreds of rebels there have mentioned surrender, activists told the Associated Press, but others have ramped up retaliations against Assad loyalists by staging attacks like suicide car bombings in areas under government control. “We expect Homs to fall,” one activist using the name Thaer Khalidiya said. “In the next few days, it could be under the regime’s control.”
Assad’s forces are thought to be emboldened by victories against the rebels in areas between Damascus and the Lebanese border, where attempts at forcing the opposition out resulted in their supply lines being cut. Government blockades in towns around Damascus, which bred hunger among rebels, have also weakened their resistance.
Opposition factions still control large swaths of countryside and have bases near the Jordanian and Turkish borders. But the fight for Homs, a strategic area for its link between Damascus and Syria’s largest city Aleppo, underscores Assad’s aim to bat down rebel gains before the elections now scheduled for June 3.