Last updated: 1 February, 2013

South Damascus reels from fresh clashes

Southern Damascus saw fresh clashes on Friday, as army tanks battered rebel enclaves near the Syrian capital, a monitoring group said.

In northern Syria, unidentified gunmen opened fire on a bus in Aleppo province, killing four civilians, among them three university students, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

“Fresh clashes broke out near Yarmuk camp… while the area was shelled,” said the Observatory, which relies on a vast network of activists, lawyers and doctors for its reporting.

Violence at Yarmuk, once home to some 150,000 Palestinian refugees, has raged for weeks, forcing many onetime residents to flee the area.

“Yarmuk was not only home to Palestinians, but also to many Syrians fleeing violence elsewhere,” an anti-regime activist from Damascus who identified himself as Abu Yasser told AFP.

“Now, they have no safe place to go to any more in the capital,” he said, adding his family was also forced to escape from southern Damascus.

Near the capital, tanks shelled several insurgent-held areas, among them Yabrud, Irbin, Moadamiyet al-Sham and Yalda, said the Observatory.

Since the end of summer last year, the army has waged a fierce onslaught on rebel enclaves near Damascus in a bid to stop insurgents from approaching the capital.

In Aleppo province, army shelling hit the town of Sfeira after clashes pitting troops against jihadist fighters loyal to Al-Nusra Front in the area on Thursday night, during which five soldiers were killed, said the watchdog

The city of Homs in central Syria was also pounded on Friday morning, more than six months into a suffocating army siege of rebel-held districts.

“The district of Khaldiyeh was shelled by army tanks on Friday morning, as several explosions shook the area,” said the Observatory.

Violence across Syria killed at least 163 people on Thursday, among them 56 civilians, 63 rebel fighters and 44 regime troops.

In 22 months, Syria’s war has killed more than 60,000 people, the UN says.