But with almost all communications to Bab Amr severed, including the satellite phones that activists have been using to transmit news and images of the fighting to the outside world, it was difficult to establish exactly what was happening.
Some activists said the government had blocked satellite transmissions; others said fuel supplies had run out for the generators that besieged residents use to power laptops and satellite phones. In the first instance of its kind, opposition groups said they could not provide casualty figures for the day’s fighting in Homs because they could not reach their contacts.
Activists in other parts of Homs described widespread fear as explosions echoed across the city. One activist, who identified himself only as Abu Emad, said government ground forces tried to enter the Bab Amr neighborhood Wednesday morning near a sports stadium to the northeast but ran into stiff resistance from rebels of the Free Syrian Army.
“A lot of soldiers tried to enter, but they couldn’t until now because the Free Syrian Army is fighting back,” said the activist, speaking over a satellite connection.
Many other neighborhoods also were being bombarded by tank and shell fire, Abu Emad said, adding: “The situation is catastrophic.”
A defiant statement, purportedly issued by the Free Syrian Army and posted on a Facebook page run by a Bab Amr activist who is now outside the country, said members of the elite 4th Armored Division commanded by Maher al-Assad, the president’s brother, had been held at bay after the soldiers attempted to enter the neighborhood.
“The Assad army did not enter Bab Amr at all, and they will never enter Bab Amr, God willing, with the brave Free Syrian Army’s protection,” the statement said. Government assertions that the rebel fighters are exhausted are baseless, it added. “This is all lies and has no truth to it. We will continue until the end.”
But an activist hiding in Homs’s Old City said he thought it unlikely that the Free Syrian Army was capable of resisting a major offensive. Mulham Jundi, a member of the opposition Syrian National Council who sneaked into Homs nearly two weeks ago, said that many rebel fighters had fled Bab Amr and that those who remain are running out of ammunition. He said he left Bab Amr this week after being hit in the leg by a bullet.
With food, water, medicine and fuel running out, Jundi said, the Syrian army intends to starve and freeze the residents into submission. Snow is falling in Homs, further burdening residents.