The Washington Post reports: Syrian troops on Monday routed government opponents in a neighborhood of Homs that had emerged in recent weeks as a center of armed resistance to the regime led by President Bashar al-Assad, dealing what appeared to be a serious setback to the protest movement and to an Arab League peace initiative designed to end the violence.
Homs residents and human rights groups said security forces stormed the Bab al-Amr neighborhood in the small hours of the morning, concluding a six-day assault in which dozens were killed and scores injured, many of them in tank bombardments.
Defected soldiers who had been defending the protest hot spot either fled to the surrounding countryside or were captured or killed, said residents and activists. Syrian troops combed through the neighborhood Monday detaining all the young men they encountered, and government supporters staged a noisy demonstration through the deserted streets.
The assault came as Assad’s government braced for the potential fallout from its failure to abide by the terms of an Arab League-sponsored peace initiative agreed to last Wednesday. Under the deal, Syria was to withdraw troops from cities, allow peaceful protests and release detainees.
Instead, the army launched an offensive in Homs, surrounding Bab al-Amr on the eve of the league’s announcement of the deal in Cairo and bombarding it with tank fire.
The offensive was accompanied by a surge in retaliatory sectarian killings in which hospital workers and human rights groups have said at least 70 people died, illustrating the potential for this religiously mixed city in the heart of Syria to serve as a crucible for a civil war many have feared since the uprising erupted in March.