Syrian government forces appear to have launched a ground assault on opposition positions in the city of Homs after nearly a month of artillery bombardment.
Activists said heavy fighting raged near the Baba Amr district in Homs on Wednesday after elite Syrian troops attacked the rebel-held quarter that has endured 25 days of siege and bombardment.
Sources on both sides said government troops tried to advance on several fronts after weeks of heavy shelling, the BBC reports
The scale of the operation remained unclear and both government officials and rebel sources said they were prevailing.
Troops also bombarded the besieged town of Rastan, 20 km north of Homs, and pro-Assad militiamen had also attacked the town of Helfaya, activists said.
Meanwhile, the International Red Cross said its Syrian Red Crescent affiliate had established 10 distribution and first aid points in Homs, but had been unable to operate in Baba Amr because of the violence.