Middle East

Dozens killed in battle near Damascus: activists

A desk and chair are seen through a hole in a wall in the Damascus suburb of Douma April 16, 2013. Picture taken April 16, 2013. REUTERS/ Abed Doumany

BEIRUT: At least 69 people, many of them rebels, have been killed in a four-day battle pitting Syrian insurgents against government forces in Jdaidet al-Fadl near Damascus, a monitoring group said on Saturday.

"Regime troops are trying to seize total control of the town of Jdaidet al-Fadl" southwest of Damascus, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

"Sixty-nine people were killed in violence raging there over the past four days," added the Britain-based watchdog, citing activists on the ground, who said many were killed in shelling and also in summary executions by the army.

Violence also raged in Sunni areas of the nearby majority Christian town of Jdaidet Artuz.

The two towns are near Daraya, the scene of fierce fighting for several months.

"Daraya was subjected to tank and rocket fire, and fresh clashes broke out in the morning on the southern and western fronts," the town's opposition local council said in a statement.

It added that regime troops had deployed reinforcements including "30 tanks and military vehicles" to the town.

Since last year, the army has tried to root out rebels positioned southwest and east of Damascus, in a bid to secure the capital.

Elsewhere, a woman and three children were killed in army shelling of Kharita town in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor, said the Observatory.

And in the central province of Homs, regime troops took control of Radwaniyeh village near the flashpoint rebel town of Qusayr, said the group.

Fierce firefights between insurgents and regime troops, pro-regime militiamen and fighters loyal to Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah were also reported in several areas around Qusayr near the border with Lebanon, it added.

Saturday's violence comes a day after at least 157 people were killed across Syria, said the Observatory, breaking the toll down to 75 civilians, 44 rebels and 38 soldiers.





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