BEIRUT - Syrian troops pounded several rebel-held districts in the central city of Homs on Tuesday, as the death toll mounted across the country, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
In total, at least 48 people were killed on Tuesday, bringing to more than 120 the death toll over two days, the Britain-based watchdog reported.
Two civilians and three rebels were killed in Homs, as clashes raged in and around the neighbourhood of Baba Amr, a former rebel stronghold that the army seized on March 1 after a fierce 27-day assault.
Rebels and troops also battled for the district of Khaldiyeh, the monitoring group said. Khaldiyeh is one of several rebel-held districts of Homs that have been besieged by the army for almost a month.
On Monday troops tried to storm the encircled district of Jourat al-Shiah, according to the Observatory.
Troops also rained shells in the southern province of Daraa, cradle of the 16-month uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, killing six people, the watchdog said. Among the victims were a woman and her three children.
In the eastern province of Deir Ezzor, much of which is rebel-controlled, violent clashes broke out with regime forces, at least four of whom were killed, the Observatory said.
The Local Coordination Committees — a network of activists on the ground — said “125 families fled the city of Deir Ezzor and its suburbs ... as a result of the unrelenting military attacks.”
Several areas of Damascus province also saw heavy violence, the Observatory said. Troops shelled the town of Arbeen, killing one child, while two people were shot dead by snipers near the city of Douma.
Meanwhile, President Bashar al-Assad said Tuesday he regretted that his country’s defence forces shot down a Turkish fighter jet on June 22, but still insisted the plane was in Syrian airspace.
“I would have wished 100 percent that we had not attacked it,” he said two weeks after the F-4 Phantom jet on a training mission was shot at and crashed into the Mediterranean off Syria.
“The plane was flying in an air corridor used three times in the past by the Israeli airforce,” Assad said as an explanation of his military’s action in an interview with a Turkish newspaper Cumhuriyet.
“A country at war always acts like this, this plane was flying at a very low altitude and was shot down by anti-aircraft defences which mistook it for an Israeli plane, which attacked Syria in 2007,” Assad said, rejecting Turkey’s accusations that the Syrians intentionally targeted the jet.