Conflict & Justice

Syria sees fierce fighting outside Damascus


A Syrian flag flutters outside a military barrack in the devastated Bab Amro neighbourhood of the central restive city of Homs on May 2, 2012.


Joseph Eid

Heavy fighting has been reported between Syrian troops and opposition forces in the suburbs outside Damascus, according to the BBC.

The BBC said witnesses are calling it some of the most intense violence the area has seen since the beginning of the uprising against President Bashar al Assad.

Reuters reported that Assad told his newly appointed government, "We live in a real state of war from all angles," in a speech aired on Syrian state television on Tuesday. He said, "When we are in a war, all policies and all sides and all sectors need to be directed at winning this war."

Assad dismissed calls by Western nations for him to step down stating that Syria "must know where our interests lie," and added, "When we transparently communicate with citizens, the citizens will understand and support us," according to Reuters.

According to the Daily Telegraph, the Syrian state news agency SANA said "armed terrorist groups" had blocked the old road from Damascus to Beirut and "clashes led to the killing of tens of terrorists, wounding a large number of them, arresting others and seizing their weapons which included RPG launchers, sniper rifles, machine guns and a huge amount of ammunition."

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported 38 civilians and 24 troops had been killed in fighting near the Republican Guard headquarters in Qudsiya, and outside Damascus in al-Hama and Mashrou' Dumar.

The Telegraph said the British-based Observatory, also claimed "security forces and armored vehicles stormed the neighborhood of Barzeh, an opposition toehold inside Damascus, and there were sounds of heavy gunfire."

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The violence comes amid a number of diplomatic developments in the Syrian crisis.

On Tuesday, Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told parliament that if Syrian troops approached Turkey's border, they would be seen as a military threat.

This comes after a Turkish F-4 Phantom jet crashed into the Mediterranean. Turkey insists the jet was shot down by Syria in international territory, while Syria insists it was inside its own airspace.

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen condemned the act, Reuters reported.

Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov agreed to attend a UN meeting on Syria in Geneva this weekend, Al Arabiya reported.

The June 30 meeting is being organized by U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan.