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Army shells Damascus rebel zones

05 December 2012, 09:15

Beirut - The Syrian army blasted a string of rebel zones on the eastern and southwestern outskirts of Damascus with shells on Tuesday, a watchdog said, as violence raged on the doorsteps of the capital.

"The army shelled the orchards in the Eastern Ghuta region [east of the capital], as it pressed military campaign in the area," said the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Shells also slammed into the town of Daraya, southwest of Damascus, where rebels who have been resisting a military onslaught since mid-summer have gathered in numbers, said the Observatory.

"The army is trying at all costs to keep the rebels out of Damascus," said Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman. "The rebels are pushing hard to enter into the city, but they have not been able to make the advance they are hoping for."

Pro-regime daily Al-Watan reported on Tuesday that the army is "making progress in all directions in Damascus province, chiefly in villages along the road linking the capital to the international airport".

The airport road was scene of intense violence last week as rebels tried to cut off one of Syria's most strategic links to the outside world.

Arrests denounced

Al-Watan also reported violence in several other districts of Damascus.

"The army has continued to chase after armed men in the southern districts of Damascus, particularly Al-Hajar Al-Aswad, Tadamun, Qadam and Assali," said the daily.

Meanwhile, prominent human rights lawyer Anwar al-Bunni denounced through his Facebook page the arrest of four jurists.

"In the past few days, the security forces have been carrying out an arrest campaign against lawyers," said Bunni.

"Lawyers Alaa Saymoua and Ayman Shehab Eddin were recently arrested," Bunni said.

On Tuesday, "Emad al-Hariri was arrested in front of the Justice Palace, while lawyer Anas Skaf was arrested from his home," Bunni added, noting that "a large number of lawyers" have been detained in recent months, though he did not elaborate.

41 000 dead

"The clear onslaught against the knights of justice is aimed at silencing the voice of defenders of human rights and the law," Bunni said.

More than 41 000 people have been killed in violence across Syria since the outbreak of an anti-regime revolt in March last year, according to the Observatory.

What started as a peaceful uprising turned into an armed insurgency, after the regime used brutal methods to repress any sign of protest.



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