Violence continues as Assad declares referendum
Violence continues unabated in Syria. The regime's forces Wednesday stormed the rebel city Hama and bombed an oil pipeline in Homs, according to activists.
Meanwhile, the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad issued a decree setting February 26 to hold a referendum on a draft constitution prepared by a special commission. The main article limits the presidential term to two seven-year period. The second term of Bashar al-Assad is due for completion in 2014.
On the ground, Syrian security forces "backed by armored personnel carriers stormed the neighborhood Barze" on the outskirts of Damascus, "erecting roadblocks and conducting searches and arrests," said Wednesday that the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. In Homs, an oil pipeline was bombed by two military aircraft. "Around 5:00 a.m., two military planes bombed the Homs oil pipeline on the outskirts of the district of Baba Amr," said Hadi Abdullah, a member of the "Revolutionary Council of Homs," citing witnesses. The pipeline had been previously targeted by gunfire. No independent source has confirmed the airstrikes. Damascus argues that this is a sabotage carried out by terrorist groups.
On Tuesday, the regime forces launched their most violent assault on Homs, the "capital of revolution." Hundreds of people have died there since February 4, according to UN and NGOs. In the province of Aleppo, nine civilians, seven soldiers and four deserters were killed in the last 24 hours in clashes in the town of Al-Atareb , said the head of the Syrian Observatory Rami Abdel Rahman. "The fighting continues," he said. And in Deir Ezzor, search operations took place in the town al-Ashara, where 16 people were arrested, according to NGOs. All in all, on Tuesday 18 civilians were killed in Syria.
Meanwhile, loud explosions were also heard in Hama (central Syria). The al-Barra hospital in the city was bombed the day before, according to opposition activist.