DAMASCUS, Syria, July 3 (UPI) -- Syrian army forces bombed Damascus' suburbs and the military offensive on rebel strongholds in Homs entered its fourth day, officials said.
At least 11 people were killed in a barrage of more than 60 mortar shells fired by Syrian army troops in the Damascus area of Kfar Batna Tuesday, activist Mohamed Saeed told The (Beirut) Daily Star in a report published Wednesday. The incident appears to be part of a concerted push against rebel-held areas around the capital, the newspaper said.
In Homs, the military offensive continued for the fourth day, with government forces shelling parts of the city's ancient quarter, Rami Abdel-Rahman, the director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights in London, said. He said Hezbollah operatives were involved in the fighting and fierce gun battles were reported.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon renewed his call for all parties to avoid civilian casualties and expressed concern about the situation in Homs. An estimated 2,500 people are believed to be trapped in the city, the U.N. News Center website reported.
"The secretary-general calls on the warring sides to do their utmost to avoid civilian casualties and to allow immediate humanitarian access, as well as opportunities for trapped civilians to leave without fear of persecution," a statement said.
In Brunei, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States and Russia were working toward holding an international peace conference on Syria and said both agreed it should take place "sooner rather than later," The New York Times said.