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Violence rages across Syria: rights watchdog

Published on Nov 18, 2012 6:46 AM
 
Smoke rises after an air strike by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces at the Hammouriyeh area in Ghouta east of Damascus Nov 17, 2012. Clashes raged in southern Damascus on Saturday, a monitoring group said, as rebels and regime troops exchanged mortar fire in the Yarmuk Palestinian refugee camp on the edges of the capital. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIRUT (AFP) - Clashes raged in southern Damascus on Saturday, a monitoring group said, as rebels and regime troops exchanged mortar fire in the Yarmuk Palestinian refugee camp on the edges of the capital.

Elsewhere, Syria's air force dropped deadly explosive-filled barrels on rebel-held areas, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

In rebel-held Harasta east of Damascus, shelling by regime forces killed at least nine civilians including four women and four children, said the Britain-based watchdog.

In eastern Syria, after battles lasting several weeks, rebels seized control of Hamdan airport in the town of Albu Kamal in Deir Ezzor province on the border with Iraq, said the Observatory.

Syria's military had used the agricultural airport as a base for helicopter gunships. Rebels also seized several tanks and mortars the army had stored there.

"The rebels now control large swathes of land in the area," Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.

"The army has lost control of practically all the eastern border area, barring the Mayadeen military base" some 50km north-west of Albu Kamal, he said.

Most of Saturday's air strikes targeted Idlib province in the northwest, Aleppo in the north and Damascus province. All three provinces are home to highly organised rebel groups.

In southern Damascus, rebels and troops clashed in Yarmuk and Tadamun district, where anti-regime sentiment is strong.

At least five civilians and two rebels were killed in Damascus on Saturday, the Observatory said.

State television said rebels shelled the mainly Christian and Druze district of Jaramana in southeastern Damascus, killing six people.

Warplanes also buzzed the Eastern Ghuta area, east of Damascus, said the Observatory, as regime forces cut several roads leading to the capital.

In Aleppo, two rebels were killed and regime forces launched several air strikes near the embattled city, including on the towns of Hreitan and Anadan, the Observatory said.

Warplanes also targeted the strategic town of Maaret al-Numan, which rebels captured on October 9, and which lies on the road linking Damascus to Aleppo.

Despite near-daily air strikes and combat on the town's edges, the army has been unable to recapture it.

At least 47 people were killed across Syria on Saturday - 29 civilians, one soldier and 17 rebels - said the Observatory which relies on a network of activists, doctors and lawyers for its information.

More than 39,000 people have been killed in violence nationwide since the outbreak of the anti-regime revolt in March last year, it says.

 
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