Huge balls of fire and mushrooms of smoke seen on the latest videos from Homs indicate that the Syrian army is using more powerful weapons in its assault on the remaining rebel strongholds in the city.
This is what the daily shelling of Homs used to look like when the Baba Amro district was still under rebel control:
February 8, 2012
Explosions seen on the latest videos look rather different:
March 24, 2012
There is an oil pipeline passing through Homs that can produce similar effects when hit with shells. However, it seems unlikely that so many shells would repeatedly hit the pipeline or that the refinery is still operating.
One YouTube video identifies these as napalm bombs. Well, the balls of fire are certainly not entirely unlike videos of napalm bombing that can be found on YouTube. However, napalm is normally delivered with bombs and these are probably thermobaric or fuel-air bombs of the kind the Russians used in Chechnya. Given the regime's connections to Russia, it comes rather natural that Mr. Putin would share with Bashar Assad his rich experience in waging counter-insurgency in the Caucuses.
March 24, 2012
To the best of our knowledge, the first video starring a fireball in Homs hit YouTube on February 14. By now they have become a regular feature in opposition videos.
February 14, 2012
Though the Syrians usually call them rockets, they actually appear to be shells. At least in the next video some kind of a howitzer exit clearly precedes the shriek and the explosion.
March 29, 2012
Anyway, whatever the source of these fireballs is, the rebel strongholds in Homs and elsewhere now seem to be subjected to attacks with even more powerful types of weapons. And now for the first time here comes a video with a very clear view of a military helicopter firing a missile, though it's not obvious what the target was. No-fly zone, anybody?
March 25, 2012
Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi is a student at Brasenose College, Oxford University, and an adjunct fellow at the Middle East Forum. Oskar Svadkovsky is a computer networking professional based in Tel Aviv, and the owner of the Happy Arab News Service blog. He graduated in Indian and Chinese Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.