Syrian government forces bombard Homs

The New York Times reports: Syrian government warplanes and artillery were reported on Friday to have launched a ferocious barrage against the central city of Homs while, near the capital, Damascus, rebels said they captured an air defense base with a cache of surface-to-air missiles.

The fighting came a day after the bloody, 18-month conflict raised broad fears of regional repercussions when Turkish artillery hit Syria for a second consecutive day on Thursday following a mortar attack on Wednesday that killed five Turkish civilians. Turkey’s Parliament reinforced Ankara’s resolute message by authorizing further military action against Syria.

The confrontation between the two countries along the divide between the NATO alliance and the Arab world threatened to escalate a confrontation that has highlighted Turkey’s fraught double role as it tries to stay out of direct involvement in the fight against President Bashar al-Assad of Syria while offering haven and support to the rebels.

Inside war-battered Syria, Friday’s bombardment of Homs by airstrikes, tank and mortar fire subjected rebel strongholds to their heaviest bombardment in months, according to The Associated Press quoting activists. Some analysts suggested that the focus on big cities like Homs and Aleppo further north showed that the government was maintaining its focus on urban warfare rather than regional maneuvering.

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