Clashes reported near government HQ in Damascus

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 19, 2012 4:39 AM
Clashes reported near government HQ in Damascus

AMMAN (Reuters) - Clashes erupted on Thursday near Syrian government headquarters in Damascus after rebels attacked forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, who have deployed armored vehicles and increased roadblocks across the city, activists and residents said.

At least one person was reported killed in the fighting in Ikhlas neighborhood near the Council of Ministers, a huge complex, and a Damascus University campus, they said.

Hundreds of families were fleeing the area, located between the districts of Kafar Souseh and Mezze, they said.

"The refugees have nowhere to go. There is fighting across Damascus," said a housewife watching the fighting from a tower block on Mezze Autostrade near the prime minister's office.

Fighting has been focused in the southern and north-eastern suburbs of the city, as well as the central areas of Mezze and Kafar Souseh where several security sites are located. Other parts of central Damascus were quiet on Thursday.

Another resident said army snipers were deployed on rooftops in Mezze and Kafar Souseh after rebels attacked armored vehicles stationed near the prime minister's office and a roadblock erected in the last few days behind the Iranian embassy.

"The snipers are shooting at anyone in the streets. Mezze streets are deserted," he said, speaking by phone.

Fighting was also reported in Midan, a central Sunni Muslim district where rebels have been operating in alleyways and narrow streets that cannot be entered easily by tanks.

Witnesses also said armored vehicles entered the Sinaa neighborhood, which is adjacent to the historic Old City center of the ancient capital.

(Reporting by Khaled Yacoub Oweis, Amman newsroom; Editing by Pravin Char)