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Violence rages on Damascus outskirts: monitor

27 january 2014, 18:06
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Government forces posing for a photograph in the Karam al-Qasr district near the Neirab Airport of the northern city of Aleppo. ©AFP
Government forces posing for a photograph in the Karam al-Qasr district near the Neirab Airport of the northern city of Aleppo. ©AFP
Syrian rebels and government troops clashed Sunday in restive districts of Damascus, a monitoring group said, as representatives of the warring sides met for peace talks in Geneva, AFP reports.

"Fierce fighting raged between rebels and troops in Jobar (in eastern Damascus) and the Port Said area of Qadam (in the south)," said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

A rebel mortar round hit the city's central Qassaa district, wounding seven people, state news agency SANA reported.

Meanwhile troops pounded opposition-held Douma northeast of the capital, the Britain-based Observatory said.

It also reported the choking siege of the Yarmuk Palestinian camp in southern Damascus by regime troops claimed six more lives Sunday because of food and medical shortages.

Fighting inside Syria has continued unabated as opposition and regime representatives meeting in Geneva discussed ways for aid to reach besieged rebel-held areas, especially in the central city of Homs.

UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, who is mediating the Geneva talks, said the Syrian regime has agreed to allow women and children trapped in besieged areas of Homs to leave.

In what appeared to be a significant breakthrough, the authorities have also agreed to allow humanitarian aid convoys in, as soon as Monday.

Hundreds of families in the Old City have lived under siege for nearly 600 days with frequent shelling and very limited supplies.

"We are calling for significant amounts of food and medical supplies, and for guarantees that women, children and wounded people evacuated from Homs' besieged areas will not be detained," said Abu Rami, spokesman for the Syrian Revolution General Commission in Homs.

"We asked for 60 tons of flour and some 40 tons of food. In conversations yesterday, they offered us 500 bags and 500 baskets... If we get too little food, you'll have people killing each other for it. People are hungry here," Abu Rami added, speaking to AFP via Skype from the besieged areas.

"We have no trust in the regime and we want guarantees, either from the UN or the International Committee of the Red Cross," he added.

Aleppo, once Syria's commercial capital and now ravaged by nearly 18 months of all-out war, also saw fresh violence Sunday.

According to reports cited by the Observatory, a 15-year-old boy was shot dead by an army sniper in the divided city.

His death came a day after 18 people, among them six children, were killed in an air strike targeting another opposition-held district, the Observatory added.

In the northeast, 26 fighters were killed in battles between Islamists, including the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), and Kurds near Ras al-Ain, a majority Kurdish town, said the group.

Kurds have fought fierce battles against extremist opposition groups.

ISIL sees the Kurds as "heretics" and an obstacle to setting up an Islamic "caliphate" stretching from Iraq to Syria.

In other parts of Syria, rebels including Islamists have been fighting ISIL for three weeks.

Syria's Kurds this week named a municipal council for one of the three majority-Kurdish regions, two months after they declared self-rule.

The Observatory, meanwhile, distributed video showing dozens of bodies, which monitor director Rami Abdel Rahman said were of rebels killed in an ambush on January 19 by Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah in Adra, near Damascus.

The regime has previously accused rebels of killing civilians in the flashpoint area which lies at a strategic entrance to the capital.

The conflict in Syria, which has lasted nearly three years, has killed more than 130,000 people and forced millions more to flee.

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