Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

National and World

November 5, 2012

Intense fighting erupts in Syrian capital

BEIRUT (AP) — Rebels and government troops backed by fighters from a Palestinian radical group fought in the capital Damascus on Monday in some of the most intense fighting in the city in nearly three months, activists said.

In northern Syria, rare fighting broke out between rival rebel groups for control of a border crossing with Turkey, according to an opposition figure.

The fighting in Damascus is some of the worst since July, when rebels took over several neighborhoods in the capital in a striking attack. Within days, a regime counterattack pushed the rebels out of Damascus and recaptured the areas. Shortly after those battles, rebels moved on Syria's largest city, Aleppo, and it has become a major front in the civil war since then.

The attacks on Syria's two main cities since summer have demonstrated new organization and capabilities of rebel forces as well as a determination to press their uprising despite the deaths of more than 36,000 people in fighting over the last 19 months.

Rami Abdul-Rahman, who heads the Britain-based activist group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said the fighting in Damascus was concentrated in the southern neighborhood of Tadamon and the outskirts of the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk.

Damascus-based activist Abu Qais al-Shami told The Associated Press via Skype that the fighting began Sunday night and went on continuously into Monday.

The Observatory and al-Shami said regime forces are backed by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC) led by Ahmed Jibril, a radical Palestinian leader and staunch supporter of President Bashar Assad.

"Tadamon is being struck with shells, rockets and heavy machinegun fire," al-Shami said. "People are fleeing the area toward safer areas inside the Yarmouk camp."

The Observatory had no immediate word on casualties from Monday's fighting but said eight people were killed in Yarmouk Sunday night when several mortar rounds landed in the camp.

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