Daily Management Review

Rebel Towns in North of Homs Targeted by Syrian Army and Russian Jets


Targeting a long-held and strategic enclave of opposition to President Bashar al-Assad, Syrian troops and their allies, backed by Russian jets, attacked rebel-held towns north of the city of Homs on Thursday.
This offensive that started before dawn was preceded by over a week of ground attacks launched with Russian air support in areas of western Syria. This region is crucial to Assad's survival and had been held by rebel groups other than Islamic State or Isis.
The army had begun a military operation in the area after heavy air strikes and artillery barrages early on Thursday, Syrian state television, quoting a military source said.
Five civilians and six insurgents had been killed in Teir Malla, about 3 miles (5 km) north of Homs city said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based group which monitors Syria's four-year-old civil war.
Fierce clashes on the southern edges of the town and nearby villages were seen along with heavy air strikes around the town of Talbiseh and other villages in the area, a few miles to the north of Homs, the Observatory said.
Since Russian jets started air strikes against rebel targets - mainly in western Syria - two weeks ago, the Syrian army, supported by foreign allies including Iran, has launched several ground offensives to retake insurgent-held territory.  
Recapture of the rebel-held land in Hama, Idlib and Latakia provinces in the northwest is the primary aim of the military offensive. There are also reports that the army which is backed by Iranian reinforcements is preparing itself to launch another ground operation around Aleppo city, close to the Turkish border.
The ground offensive is critical to President Assad to secure territory linking Damascus to the coastal heartland of his minority Alawite sect and this makes recapturing the area north of Homs very important.
The army and its allies had taken control of the villages of Khalidiya and Dar Kabira, between Homs and Teir Malla, the state television said quoting military sources. The Observatory said the army had advanced in Khalidiya, but there was still heavy fighting there.
"There are very heavy air strikes in Homs on the frontlines. There are civilian casualties. The aim is to apply military pressure, and the regime's intention is to storm the area," said the leader of one rebel group operating in the area.
The rebel sources said that the number killed was not confirmed but gave the names of five documented dead including a girl and two women.
Quoting a resident of Talbiseh, the local media reported that four civilians had been killed there and that a school was hit at around 6 a.m., before classes started. He said jets were still flying in the area.
"They want to open up the road from Homs (north) to Hama. There's no end to the aerial observation and the bombardment," said a teacher in Talbiseh.
"People are busy digging shelters. No one has any intention of leaving. We will die in our land rather than be evicted,” he added
A source in te Syrian military told reporters that Syrian forces and Russian jets do not target areas where civilians are present and accused al Qaeda's wing in Syria, the Nusra Front, of carrying out a massacre on Thursday