Syrian troops fight rebels in Damascus suburb

Associated Press
In this image taken from video obtained from the Sham News Network, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, a pair of what activists say are tanks from President Bashar Assad regime in sit in a street in the Daraya neighborhood of Damascus, Syria, just before one of them fires a shot Friday, Jan. 25, 2013. Troops battled rebels around Damascus in an effort to dislodge opposition fighters who have set up enclaves around the capital, including Daraya and Zabadani. (AP Photo/Sham News Network via AP video)
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BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian troops raided an opposition stronghold near the capital on Saturday, killing rebels and uncovering tunnels they used to move around and smuggle weapons, the state-run news agency said.

SANA said three tunnels were discovered after clashes in Daraya, just south of the capital, Damascus. Syrian troops have been trying to capture Daraya for weeks, but have faced strong resistance from hundreds of rebels trying to overthrow President Bashar Assad.

The rebels have used Damascus suburbs to stage attacks on nearby government facilities.

The conflict in Syria began nearly two years ago after a peaceful uprising against Assad turned violent. The unrest was inspired by the Arab Spring wave of revolutions that toppled leaders in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen.

More than 60,000 have been killed since the fighting began in March 2011, according to the U.N. Since then, the Syrian opposition has taken control of wide swathes of territory, mostly in the north near Syria's border with Turkey.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported an air raid Saturday on the northern town of Al-Bab, which killed at least four people and wounded others.

Amateur video posted online showed about a dozen wounded men and women and at least two boys and a girl being treated at a hospital. "Oh God help us. They are children," a man could be heard saying as a doctor cut the clothes of a boy to expose his wound.

The Observatory and another activist group, the Local Coordination Committees, also reported shelling and air raids in other Damascus suburbs, including Shebaa and Aqraba near the international airport. The LCC also said rebels fired several rockets from Daraya toward Assad's People's Palace on Qasioun Mountain, overlooking the capital.

It released a video showing a masked man firing at least one small rocket from the roof of a building near the palace. Syrian officials have previously denied claims by rebels that rockets have targeted the palace — one of three mansions Assad uses in the capital.

The videos appeared genuine and correspond to reporting done by The Associated Press.

Daraya is flanked by districts that are home to a military air base, the government headquarters, the intelligence agency's head office and the Interior Ministry.

The Observatory said troops bombarded southern neighborhoods of the capital and have witnessed anti-government activities for months. It said a rebel was killed in Damascus during clashes with pro-regime gunmen in the neighborhood of Tishrin.

The activist groups also reported heavy clashes in the central city of Homs and the nearby town of Qusair, which is close to the border with Lebanon, and near a prison in the northwestern city of Idlib.

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