Clashes rage around Damascus
Rosalinda L. Orosa (The Philippine Star) - August 4, 2013 - 9:00am

DAMASCUS (Xinhua) - Clashes between the government troops and the opposition rebels raged in restive suburbs of the Syrian capital Damascus and elsewhere across the country Saturday.

Intense clashes erupted Saturday in the Damascus' suburbs of Barzeh, Hamorieh, Qaboun and other restive areas in the eastern countryside of the capital, according to activists' reports.

The clashes in Barzeh district were ignited when government troops tried to storm the district backed with heavy shelling, the oppositional Local Coordination Committees (LCC) said.

The LCC also reported heavy shelling on the eastern suburbs of Jobar and Hamorieh, where the government troops shelling allegedly killed eight people.

Meanwhile, the activists' Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said several battalions of the armed rebels, including the al- Qaeda-linked Nusra Front, have attacked and taken over three weapon depots of the Syrian army at the town of Qaldoun near Damascus.

The rebels have recently stepped up their assaults in the suburbs of Damascus in the hope of creating inroads to the heavily fortified capital. On Friday, the state-media said government army succeeded to dislodge the rebels from al-Matahen area, which is close to the road to the international airport of Damascus.

Earlier in the day, the pro-government Sama TV said it cited a very well-informed source as denying media reports that a total of 30 Syrian soldiers were killed Saturday at the hands of the rebels in Damascus' countryside.

In the central province of Homs, the state-run SANA news agency said the Syrian army eliminated rebel groups.

According to SANA, unites of the Syrian army killed and wounded a number of members of the armed opposition groups in several districts in Homs and foiled an attempt to detonate a booby- trapped car in al-Hisn town.

The army pursued the rebels and inflicted heavy losses upon them in Bab-Hud, al-Waer, Joret al-Shayah and al-Qarabis neighborhoods, the report said.

In New York, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) warned of the deteriorating situation of women and children in Homs, saying in a statement that "the situation of women and children in the Syrian city of Homs is rapidly deteriorating, with some 400, 000 civilians now displaced in the district of Al Waer, living in partially constructed buildings, schools and other public buildings."

The UNICEF called on all parties of the conflict to immediately grant safe access to the afflicted families and to spare the women and children the suffering of war.

Homs province is witnessing intense fighting between the rebels and government troops that seem determent to route the rebels out of the strategic province due to its important location in central Syria and its closeness to the Lebanese borders.  PM KEEN ON GENEVA MEETING

While the violence is the main title of the current phase in Syria's 28-month-old crisis, Prime Minister Wael al-Halqi renewed accusation of the West and the United States of not being serious about finding a political solution to the Syrian crisis due to their support to the armed rebels.

Speaking in an interview with the Iranian al-Alam TV, al-Halqi said "The West and America and some Arab countries are not serious about finding a political solution in Syria, and they are still supporting the rebels with arms and ammunition."

In the meantime, the prime minister stressed his country's willingness to participate in any conference that would be conducive to finding a solution to the crisis, particularly the long-awaited Geneva peace conference.

"As a government, we support every peaceful solution that could lead to a democratic and political future for Syria," he stressed.

On May 7, Moscow and Washington said they had agreed to hold an international conference in Geneva designed to facilitate a solution to the Syrian crisis through a political dialogue. The delayed conference is a follow-up to last year's international meeting in Geneva that drafted a peace roadmap for Syria but was never implemented.

The United Nations said recently that more than 100,000 people had been killed in Syria's 28-month crisis, with about 1.7 million forced to seek refuge in neighboring countries.  

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