Battle for Syria intensifies

Smoke billows above Damascus as Syrian forces carry out an assault on the capital city.

AMMAN — Syrian army shells crashed into southern Damascus today and helicopters fired rockets and machineguns during an assault to shore up President Bashar al-Assad’s grip on the capital, opposition activists said.

They said at least 40 people had been killed in what they called the heaviest bombardment this month.

“The whole of Damascus is shaking with the sound of shelling,” said a woman in Kfar Souseh, one of several districts hit during the military offensive to root out rebel fighters.

At least 22 people were killed in Kfar Souseh and 18 in the nearby district of Nahr Eisha, activists said.

“There are 22 tanks in Kfar Souseh now and behind each one there are at least 30 soldiers. They are raiding houses and executing men,” an opposition activist in Kfar Souseh, who gave his name only as Bassam, told Reuters by Skype.

More than 250 people, including 171 civilians, were killed across Syria yesterday, mostly around Damascus, Aleppo and the southern city of Deraa, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based opposition monitoring group.

Fighting a 17-month old revolt against Assad’s rule, the army has used tanks and helicopter gunships this week in an offensive around the capital which has coincided with the departure of UN military observers after a failed mission.

Activists in the southwestern suburb of Mouadamiya said Assad’s forces had killed 86 people there since Monday, half of them in cold blood. It was not possible to verify the report. (Reuters)

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