Syrian Troops Retake Control of Some Damascus Suburbs

Posted January 30th, 2012 at 11:45 am (UTC-5)
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Syrian opposition activists say government troops have re-taken control of several Damascus suburbs in heavy fighting with rebels leading a 10-month long uprising against President Bashar al-Assad's 11-year autocratic rule.

The activists said Monday pro-Assad forces drove the Free Syrian Army forces out of some eastern districts closest to central Damascus before moving into neighboring areas and engaging in more deadly street battles.

Activists also reported fighting between government troops and rebels in the central province of Homs. They say Monday's violence across Syria killed at least 28 people, mostly civilians.

The Syrian government's escalation of its crackdown on the revolt in recent days has prompted Western powers and Arab nations to intensify a push for U.N. Security Council intervention in the crisis.

Western powers and Arab nations have been drafting a Security Council resolution that would support an Arab League plan for Mr. Assad to transfer power to a deputy and form a national unity government.

Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby is due to present the initiative to the Council on Tuesday. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her British and French counterparts plan to attend the session to lobby the Council for approval of the plan.

Russia has been urging the international community to promote dialogue to end the Syrian crisis rather than punitive action by the Security Council against Mr. Assad's government, a long-time Russian ally and buyer of Russian military supplies. Moscow is a veto-wielding member of the Council.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said Monday the Syrian government has agreed to send a delegation to Moscow for proposed talks with Syrian opposition activists on resolving the unrest. But, senior members of the Syrian National Council said the prominent opposition group rejects the idea of talks with Assad representatives.

Syrian state media accused a “terrorist group” of blowing up a gas pipeline near Telkalakh, close to the Lebanese border. There have been several pipeline attacks since a popular uprising began last March, but it is not clear who is responsible for them. Some Syrian cities have faced energy shortages after the attacks.

The Syrian government accuses armed terrorists of driving the anti-Assad revolt and killing 2,000 security personnel. The United Nations estimated the death toll from the unrest at 5,400 earlier this month before it stopped updating the figure because of difficulties in obtaining information.