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Syrian forces continue to push rebels in offensive in central Homs

Syrian troops are continuing an offensive aimed at dislodging rebel forces from a key strategic town. This came as the new opposition leader said new weapons from Saudi Arabia could turn the tide in the rebels' favor.

Syrian forces continued to fight rebels in Homs on Monday, and there was at least one report that they had managed to capture a district of the town.

The Associated Press quoted an unnamed government official from Homs province who said troops had seized control of the Khaldiyeh district of the town, but that they were still involved in a mop-up operation.

Though not confirming that government troops had taken control of the district, an opposition activist quoted by the AFP news agency said they appeared to be making headway.

"The ruthless campaign against Homs is continuing for the 10th day in a row. Regime forces have been able to enter parts of Khaldiyeh after heavy shelling and scorched-earth tactics," Abu Bilal al-Homsi said via Skype.

Another activist told the Associated Press that government troops were shelling an area around the well-known 12th-century Khaled Bin El- Walid mosque.

"It's quiet in the morning, and then they go crazy," the activist, who identified himself only as Nedal, told the agency, also using Skype.

Homs, which is located 140 kilometers (85 miles) north of Damascus, is seen as a key city in the battle for the control of Syria, as it is situated at a strategic crossing point that links the capital with army bases near the Mediterranean coast.

The United Nations announced last week that at least 2,500 people have been trapped by the fighting around Homs.

Advanced weapons for the rebels

Meanwhile, the new head of the opposition Syrian National Coalition has said that he expects advance weapons to be in rebel hands soon.

Ahmad Jarba, who has decribed the rebels' military capability as weak, told the Reuters news agency that he planned to use his close links with Saudi Arabia to obtain not only weapons but other forms of aid as well.

"My priority (is) to secure two-tier support for the Syrian people: military and humanitarian. We are working on getting advanced and medium-range weapons to the Free Syrian army and the liberated areas," said Jarba, who was elected as the new president of the coalition during a meeting in Istanbul on Saturday.

"I give myself one month to achieve what I am intent to do," Jarba added.

According to UN estimates, more than 93,000 people have been killed in Syria since early 2011, when the uprising began with peaceful protests to demand political reforms.

pfd/mkg (AP, AFP, Reuters)