Syrian TV: Four Killed in Fighting in Major Damascus Neighborhood

Posted March 19th, 2012 at 5:15 am (UTC-5)
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State-run Syrian television says three people it calls terrorists were killed in during fighting Monday between rebels and government forces in an upscale Damascus neighborhood.

The broadcast says one government soldier was also killed.

Witnesses say they heard machine gun fire and rocket-propelled grenades exploding in al-Mezze — one of the most heavily guarded neighborhoods of Damascus. The area is home to some foreign embassies and government security facilities.

Damascus, the Syrian capital, has generally been spared the deadly violence between government forces and rebels trying to topple President Bashar al-Assad.

But two bombings moments apart killed 27 people and wounded more than 100 on Saturday in the city. Syrian officials blame terrorists while the opposition says the government itself was behind the blasts to try to discredit the rebels.

Sunday, a car bomb outside a government security building in the northern city of Aleppo, killed two and wounded 30.

Syrian security forces broke up a rally in Damascus Sunday that would have marked one year since the start of anti-government protests. Hundreds of people tried to march. Police arrested several prominent opposition leaders. Government forces also prevented anniversary marches in other cities.

Former U.N. chief Kofi Annan, who met Mr. Assad in Damascus last week, has ordered a team of experts to Syria Monday to discuss a possible cease-fire and international monitoring mission.

The United Nations says at least 8,000 people have been killed in the Assad government's violent crackdown on the revolt, which began with peaceful protests and became increasingly militarized as army defectors attacked pro-Assad troops who assaulted civilians.