Syria troops, militia battle rebels
26 April 2013, 17:16
Beirut - Fresh fighting broke out on the edges of Damascus on Friday, as troops took on rebels in the north, south and east, backed in some areas by tanks and militia, a watchdog said.
"Fierce clashes are raging in Barzeh district pitting rebels against troops and members of the pro-regime popular committees," the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
The north Damascus neighbourhood also came under tank fire by the army, the Britain-based group said.
The militiamen were brought in from the Esh al-Warwar district, which has a population mainly drawn from the same Alawite minority as President Bashar Assad, it added.
Most of the rebels are from Syria's Sunni Muslim majority.
In its third year, the conflict has grown increasingly sectarian, as Assad's regime has armed militia among the Alawites and other minority groups.
Analysts say the militia have better knowledge of the ground than the largely conscript army and are more adept at street fighting.
Rebels and troops also fought in several areas of south Damascus, parts of which have been reduced to rubble by months of clashes.
In the east of the capital, fighting broke out in Jobar district, where the rebels hold a number of enclaves, the Observatory said.
The army also shelled the eastern suburbs, where the rebels have rear-bases they have used to launch attacks inside the capital.
In violence on Thursday, at least 130 people died, the Observatory said - 53 civilians, 27 soldiers and 50 rebels.