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February 6, 2013 7:03 pm
Fierce fighting rocked Damascus and its suburbs on Wednesday in the most significant surge in rebel activity there for weeks.
The sounds of gunfire and blasts from shelling in the suburbs could be heard in most neighbourhoods.
Government troops blocked traffic at a key intersection in the city’s northeast and on a number of nearby roads.
According to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a pro-opposition monitoring group, clashes came to an area near to Abassyin Square, a landmark in the northeast of the city.
Activists said that rebels had attacked an army checkpoint in the north-eastern suburb of Jobar, suggesting a concerted attempt to push from the less tightly controlled suburbs into the city itself.
A Facebook page in the name of Liwa al Islam, one of the rebel battalions fighting the capital, announced an operation “to come to Damascus”.
Rebels have tried to storm Damascus from the suburbs before, however and have been pushed back by the regime’s superior fire and air power. The regime has concentrated its elite forces in defending the city.
Syrian state media said on Wednesday that the army had carried out several operations in the eastern suburbs, “inflicting heavy losses upon terrorists”.
In Palmyra, 220km northeast of Damascus, on the main road to the oil-producing east of the country, a suicide car bomber struck a military intelligence compound, causing dozens of casualties, opposition campaigners said.
A bomb destroyed part of the back wall of the compound near the Roman-era ruins in the city and then a suicide car bomber drove through, detonating the vehicle and destroying parts of the facility, activists in Palmyra said.
They said it was not immediately clear how many people had been killed in the blast and clashes which followed. Video footage, which could not be immediately verified, showed a large cloud of thick smoke rising in the city.
“The first car bomb struck at around six in the morning. The second one, which caused the larger explosion, broke through into the compound 10 minutes later,” Abu al-Hassan, an activist, said from the city.
He said tanks in the compound responded by firing shells into an adjacent neighbourhood, killing several civilians.
Roadblocks across the city also came under attack.
The state news agency said two “suicide terrorists” blew up cars packed with explosives near a garage in a residential district, killing and wounding several people. A woman was among those killed, it said.
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