Syrian forces raided the restive city of Homs in a predawn assault Friday with explosions and steady gunfire heard in several neighbourhoods, activists said.
The fighting began late Thursday in the Karm al-Zeitoun neighbourhood, the Local Coordination Committees, which organise protests on the ground, said in a statement sent to AFP.
Syrian forces then pounded the Bab Seba neighbourhood with heavy artillery and rocket fire, the activists said, with sounds of intense fighting coming from the Baba Amro neighbourhood.
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The LCC said three people were killed early Friday in Homs, Syria's third-largest city 160 km (100 miles) north of the capital. It said two more were killed in Idlib province in the northwest and one in the Damascus suburbs.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that 26 civilians were killed in Homs on Thursday, including nine children, and dozens more people injured.
The Observatory said another flashpoint central city, Hama, also came under assault in the early hours of Friday, with intense firing from heavy machine guns and loud explosions heard.