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New air force raids in Damascus province

25 January 2013, 17:07

Beirut - Syria's air force launched new raids on rebel-held towns east of Damascus on Friday, after clashes raged on the edges of a Palestinian refugee camp in the capital, a watchdog said.

The army pounded opposition-held areas of battered Homs in central Syria, as it stepped up a campaign to reclaim areas of "the capital of the revolution", said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

"Warplanes made several air strikes on towns and villages in the Eastern Ghouta region" near Damascus, said the Britain-based Observatory, which relies on a network of activists, doctors and lawyers across Syria for its reporting.

Eastern Ghouta is home to some of the rebel Free Syrian Army's best organised and fiercest groups.

Clashes pitting rebels against troops raged overnight on the edges of the Yarmuk refugee camp, which has seen frequent violence in the past few weeks, especially since two air raids in mid-December.

Once home to around 150 000 Palestinians, Yarmuk now also acts as a makeshift refuge for hundreds of Syrians fleeing violence elsewhere in the country.

Frequent bombardment

"But it is no longer a safe place. Thousands of people have left the camp, Palestinians and Syrians, in search of another refuge," said Abu Omair, an activist from Damascus.

Friday's violence came a day after at least 98 people were killed across the country, among them 33 civilians, 26 soldiers and 39 rebel fighters, said the watchdog.

In Homs, the army shelled the Juret al-Shiyah and Khaldiyeh neighbourhoods, which have been bombarded frequently since the outbreak of the anti-regime revolt in March 2011, said the Observatory.

Much of Juret al-Shiyah, like many areas of Homs city, has been levelled, Homs residents say.

Fighting raged on the edges of the districts, as the army continued to push to reclaim insurgent-held areas in the strategic city, which lays on the route linking Damascus to the sea.

Meanwhile on Thursday, a jihadist suicide attacker killed at least eight military intelligence troops, said the Observatory.

Critical injuries

"At least eight military intelligence troops were killed in a suicide bomb attack by an Al-Nusra Front fighter in the town of Saasaa," in Damascus province, it said.

Others were critically injured in the attack staged by an organisation listed by the United States as a "terrorist" group.

State news agency SANA confirmed the attack. It blamed "terrorists", but did not elaborate on the number of casualties.

More than 60 000 people have been killed in violence across Syria since an anti-regime revolt morphed into an armed insurgency after the regime of President Bashar al-Assad launched a brutal crackdown on dissent.



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