Syria fights off rebel advance on Damascus

Government bombards opposition strongholds in Damascus suburbs to fend off fierce rebel campaign to take the capital.

    Syrian government forces have bombarded several rebel strongholds in the suburbs of Damascus to quell the fighters battling the regime of President Bashar al-Assad from reaching the capital.

    Activists on Saturday said troops levelled their bombardment campaign on the districts of Hajar al-Aswad and Qaboun in southern Damascus while they continued to shell the suburbs of Daraya, Beit Hahm, Zibdeen, Maadamiya and Jisteen.

    Meanwhile, Syria's official news agency said a journalist for a pro-government television station has died of wounds sustained in shooting attack in the suburbs of the capital.

    The state-run SANA agency said Suheil al-Ali of Addounia TV died on Friday, four days after a "terrorist'' fired on him as he was going to work. Syrian state media refers to opposition fighters as terrorists.

    Fighting has raged for weeks in neighbourhoods and towns around Damascus as rebels fighting to topple Assad press on with an offensive to take the city.

    While the regime has largely kept his grip on the capital, Damascus has been targeted by a number of large bombings, many of which appear to target government buildings. Some have been claimed by the opposition group Jabhat al-Nusra, which the US has designated a terrorist organisation.

    On Saturday, a shell reportedly landed in the neighbourhood in Bab Touma in central Damascus, while an IED explosion was reported in Rukn al-Deen district. No casualties were reported in the blasts.

    More clashes

    The latest violence in the capital came a day after at least 11 people were killed and 40 wounded when a car bomb exploded at a crowded petrol station in Masakin Barzeh district in the north of the city.

    Elsewhere, clashes were reported on Saturday in the eastern Deir Ezzor city around the technical services building that was recently seized by rebels after they killed and injured government soldiers and took several others hostages.

    More fighting was reported near the air force intelligence building in the northern city of Aleppo, while shelling was reported in the town of Hritan in the city's suburbs.

    Meanwhile, in the central province of Homs, activists said government forces shelled the rebel-held town of Rastan and the farms surrounding the neighbourhood of Bab Amr in Homs city.

    Activists reported the deaths of at least 122 people on Friday in violence across the country.

    The UN, this week, said more than 60,000 people have been killed since Syria's crisis began in March 2011, a figure much higher than previous opposition estimates.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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