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April 21, 2013

Syria Activists: Pro-Assad Forces Kill 80 Near Damascus

by VOA News

Syrian opposition activists say pro-government forces have killed at least 80 people in five days of fighting to recapture a rebel suburb of Damascus.

In statements to the media Sunday, the activists said the forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad carried out the killings after entering the suburb of Jdaidet al-Fadl. They said pro-government patrols of the town were making it difficult to document the number of dead.

An activist video posted on the Internet claimed to show several bodies of those killed covered in bags and laid out on the ground. Some appeared to have been executed with gunshot wounds to the head.

There was no immediate response from the Syrian government to the accusation.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Syrian troops also have captured territory around the western rebel stronghold of Qusair, with the help of pro-government militia and Lebanese Hezbollah militants.

It said the pro-Assad forces seized two villages on Saturday in their push to reclaim Qusair, a strategic town that connects Damascus to the Mediterranean coast and lies near the Syrian-Lebanese border.

Lebanese state media said several shells fired from the Syrian side of the border landed near the northern Lebanese town of Hermel on Sunday. Syrian rebels said the shelling was in retaliation for Hezbollah intervening in the Syrian civil war on the side of the Assad government.

The main Syrian opposition coalition released a statement demanding that Hezbollah withdraw fighters from Syria immediately, and urging the Lebanese government to stop the militant group from intervening further. Hezbollah is a key ally of Syrian President Assad but has denied sending its fighters to Syria to help him battle a two-year rebellion.