Syrian forces fight rebels in Damascus

Assad’s forces try to regain control of rebel hubs in capital

Syrian troops backed by helicopters and tanks have struck back in Damascus against rebel fighters emboldened by a bomb attack against President Bashar Assad’s inner circle.

Assad’s forces, who also pushed into a rebel-held district in the northerly commercial hub of Aleppo on Saturday, targeted pockets of lightly armed rebels, who moved about the streets on foot and attacked security installations and roadblocks.

Residents said the sound of shelling in the capital was so intense at dusk that they were unable to distinguish it from the traditional cannon blast marking the end of the daily fast for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Opposition activists said helicopters fired rockets into a neighborhood near the southerly Sayida Zeinab district, causing dozens of casualties.

Search for safety

“In Damascus, people continue to search desperately for safety,” the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said in a statement in Geneva.

“Humanitarian needs are growing as the situation in the city worsens and as large numbers of people flee their neighborhoods in search of safe haven. The ICRC and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent have intensified their response to the situation.”

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition group that monitors the violence, said 140 people, including 43 troops, had been killed across Syria on Saturday. Most of them died in the province of Homs, epicenter of the uprising.

One Western diplomat said Assad was moving troops to protect his capital and compared him to a doctor “abandoning the patient’s limbs to save the organs.”

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