Last Updated: Tue Aug 28, 2012 11:21 am (KSA) 08:21 am (GMT)

Syrian army pounds Damascus districts in predawn attack

Overnight shelling of the capital’s eastern neighborhoods of Zamlaka, Qaboon, Jubar and Ein Tarma, were reported by activists. (Reuters)
Overnight shelling of the capital’s eastern neighborhoods of Zamlaka, Qaboon, Jubar and Ein Tarma, were reported by activists. (Reuters)

The eastern belt of Damascus was under heavy attack by Syrian regime forces before dawn on Tuesday, according to activist reports, adding that 60 people were killed in the province the previous day.

Overnight shelling of the capital’s eastern neighborhoods of Zamlaka, Qaboon, Jubar and Ein Tarma, were reported by the Britain-based watchdog, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The attacks followed a bloody Monday in which 190 people - 116 civilians, 40 opposition fighters and 34 soldiers - were killed across Syria, AFP news agency reported.

Activists also said that aerial attacks by at least two fighter planes late on Monday had targeted the neighborhood of Zamalka and the more easterly suburb of Saqba where Free Syrian Army fighters had attacked and overrun several army roadblocks earlier in the day, according to Reuters.

Both suburbs are poor and inhabited predominantly by Sunni Muslims, who make up the majority of Syria’s population and have been at the forefront of fighting against President Bashar al-Assad.

Video footage seen by a Reuters reporter of the aftermath of an attack by one of the planes firing rockets at an apartment building showed people running away with their children and the six-story building collapsed like an accordion.

Syrian authorities have banned entry to most foreign media, making it impossible to verify accounts by activists and residents of activity in the capital.

The focus of the 17-month struggle appears to have returned to the outskirts of the capital after weeks of battles centered on the northern city of Aleppo.

Meanwhile, the Observatory reported that another seven unidentified bodies were found in the town of Darya, southwest of Damascus, while 14 others were discovered elsewhere in the province.

More than 330 bodies have been found since Sunday in Darya, after President Bashar al-Assad’s troops launched a ferocious five-day onslaught of shelling, summary executions and door-to-door raids, according to activists.

State media said the operation had “purified terrorist remnants” in Darya, while pro-government television al-Dunia said “terrorists” had carried out the killings.

At the United Nations, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the Darya killings as “an appalling and brutal crime” that should be independently investigated immediately.

On Monday, opposition fighters from the Free Syrian Army claimed to have downed a military helicopter in the district of Qaboon during heavy shelling and fierce fighting that also engulfed nearby Jubar as well as several towns outside the capital. The fighters said the attack was “revenge” for the killings which took place in Darya.

The Syrian Revolution General Council, an activist network on the ground, said that regime forces on Tuesday shelled the eastern suburbs of Harasta and Irbin.

It reported shells being fired from Harasta to the nearby town of Irbin as helicopters hovered overhead.

“The sound of explosions prevails in the (Harasta) town center and warplanes are seen over the skyline,” the SRGC said, adding that smoke could also be seen rising from the nearby Qaboon district.

The Observatory says more than 25,000 people have been killed since an uprising against Assad broke out in March last year.

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