The Syrian army has recaptured the key rebel district of Khaldiyeh in the central city of Homs, the state broadcaster reported on Monday.
The army, backed by fighters from Lebanon’s powerful Hezbollah militant group, had launched an assault on Khaldiyeh a month ago as they press efforts to retake all of Homs, activists said.
The full recapture of Homs, dubbed by rebels “the capital of the revolution,” would be a major coup for President Bashar al-Assad’s regime as the city straddles a key route linking Damascus to the Mediterranean coast and the Alawite hinterland of Assad’s minority community.
Several neighbourhoods in the Old City also remain in rebel hands, but troops, who have a foothold in that part of town too, appear determined to dislodge them.
The offensive in the city follows the army’s recapture of the Homs province town of Qusayr in June, also with help from Hezbollah.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said fierce battles early Monday preceded the recapture of Khaldiyeh, calling the fighting “the most violent since the offensive was launched.”
Meanwhile, Syrian warplanes raided the Bab Hud neighbourhood of the Old City just south of Khaldiyeh, said the Britain-based Observatory, which relies on a network of activists and medics on the ground.