Syrian Forces Continue Assault in Damascus

Posted August 24th, 2012 at 4:10 am (UTC-5)
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Syrian government forces are continuing efforts to seize control of parts of the capital and its surrounding areas from rebel fighters.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the military bombed Daraya, on the edge of Damascus, and nearby Moadamiyeh on Thursday. Syrian forces then carried out house-to-house raids in Daraya while fierce clashes erupted in the Hajar al-Aswad district of Damascus.

The Observatory said about 100 people were killed in violence across Syria Thursday, including nearly 50 civilians in Damascus and its surroundings.

The Washington Post reported the scale of the current violence in Damascus has eclipsed the battle underway for control of Syria's commercial capital, Aleppo, in the north. The Post reported that most of the deaths in Damascus are civilians who have disappeared and whose bodies have been discovered with torture marks, slit throats or bullet wounds to the head.

In neighboring Lebanon, a sniper killed a prominent Sunni sheikh Friday in the northern city of Tripoli, sparking renewed clashes between pro- and anti-Syrian factions that dashed a tenuous truce.

Sunni Muslims have led the revolt against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whose minority Alawite sect has mostly stood with him. Sunni-Alawite tensions have been growing in parts of Lebanon as well, such as Tripoli, where the two groups live in neighboring districts.

Britain and France Thursday raised the possibility of military intervention in Syria. British Prime Minister David Cameron joined U.S. President Obama in warning that the transport or deployment of Syria's chemical weapons stockpile was “completely unacceptable” and would force the Western powers to “revisit their approach” to the conflict.

French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian urged the international community to consider backing a partial no-fly zone over parts of Syria.

Syria's chief backer, Russia, meanwhile, said it was working closely with the Damascus government to ensure that its arsenal of chemical weapons stays under firm control and has won promises that it will not be used or moved.

Concern has also mounted over the safety of journalists who have entered Syria without official permission to report on the conflict. The family of U.S. freelance reporter Austin Tice said it has not heard from him for more than a week and is concerned for his welfare.

Tice, a former Marine, has reported for The Washington Post, McClatchy Newspapers and other media outlets from Syria, where he recently spent time with rebel fighters. He was one of the few western journalists reporting from Damascus.