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Syrian government forces driving rebels out of Homs

July 29, 2013, 3:15 UTC+3

The TV footage demonstrated the Khalid ibn al-Walid Mosque, which was built in Homs as far back as 1265

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BEIRUT, July 29 (Itar-Tass) - The Syrian command plans to complete the operation to liberate the city of Homs from terrorist groups within hours, an army officer told the Surya television channel on Sunday. Hotspots of resistance in the city’s northern suburb will be exterminated “within two days,” he said.

The TV footage demonstrated the Khalid ibn al-Walid Mosque, which was built in Homs as far back as 1265, and which is now a base of rebels and their arms arsenal. Syrian soldiers took over the mosque and flied the national flag over it.

Homs is Syria’s third largest city located some 165 kilometers north of Damascus. The Homs battle was of great symbolic significance for both parties. The irreconcilable opposition called Homs as the “revolutionary capital.” The city has long been held by rebels. In early 2012, the Syrian army liberated the major part of the city, but a year later armed rebels took over control of the city again. In May-June, the government forces regained control over populated localities at the Lebanese border, via which supplies had been reaching the rebels. In early July, government forces began a siege of remaining footholds of armed opposition in Homs.

Syria expert Hassan al-Hassan said the liberation of Homs is a “strategic success.” This important moral victory for the national army may have a crucial influence on the further military campaign, he told the Al- Mayadeed television company. The Syria government is regaining control over the country’s central provinces traversed by the Damascus-Aleppo highway linking the north and south of the country, and by the Damascus-Tartus highway to the sea coast, and the Damascus-Baghdad road leading to the country’s eastern border.

According to reports coming from Syria’s northeastern provinces, over the past week Kurdish guards killed 79 gunmen from extremist groups Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which are linked with al-Qaeda.

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