Syrian Information Ministry hit with mortar fire

Reuters News
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Posted: Nov 20, 2012 3:32 AM

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Two mortar rounds hit Syria's Information Ministry building in the capital Damascus on Tuesday, Syrian state television said, causing some damage but no casualties.

Syrian TV blamed "terrorists" for the attack, referring to rebels who have been battling to topple President Bashar al-Assad since last year.

The rebels have been trying to take their 20-month-old revolt to the heart of Damascus, Assad's seat of power, and have footholds in the city's southern outskirts and in many surrounding suburbs.

Inside Damascus, the fighters have focused on carrying out high-profile rocket and car bomb attacks on government buildings that are often more symbolic than lethal, with the exception of a major bomb attack that killed at least four high level government officials.

Activist Samir al-Shami said rebels had fired the mortars rounds at the Information Ministry building, which is located in the central Mezzeh district of the capital, from a southern suburb where rebels have been hiding.

Opposition activists were frustrated that the attack appeared to have caused only minimal damage.

"It only hit the outside of the building and there was no smoke, we haven't seen any ambulances coming," al-Shami told Reuters via Skype.

Assad's forces appear to be bracing for intensified attacks this week, which the opposition has dubbed "March to Damascus Week". Extra checkpoints have been set up around the city and security forces have placed new restrictions on the movement of residents in some parts of the capital.

The revolt in Syria, which began as peaceful street protests, has spread across the country and evolved into a bloody civil war in which activists say more than 38,000 people have been killed.

(Reporting by Erika Solomon; Editing by Janet Lawrence and Andrew Osborn)