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Intense Fighting Rocks Syrian Capital

In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, damaged apartments are seen after a clashes between the Syrian rebels and the Security forces, in the Mazzeh neighborhood of Damascus, Syria, on Monday, March 19, 2012.
In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, damaged apartments are seen after a clashes between the Syrian rebels and the Security forces, in the Mazzeh neighborhood of Damascus, Syria, on Monday, March 19, 2012.

Note: VOA has revised its figures based on information complied by UNOSAT via death toll figures from Syrianshuhada.com and the Violations Documenting Center. This change reflects a shift in the numbers. Because of the difficulty of monitoring and reporti
Note: VOA has revised its figures based on information complied by UNOSAT via death toll figures from Syrianshuhada.com and the Violations Documenting Center. This change reflects a shift in the numbers. Because of the difficulty of monitoring and reporti
Syrian rebels have staged a rare incursion into an upscale area of Damascus, triggering a deadly exchange of gunfire with forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad.

The Syrian state news agency, SANA, says two rebels and a security force member were killed in Monday's pre-dawn battle that frightened residents of the Mazzeh neighborhood, which is home to embassies and senior government officials.

It was the closest fighting to the center of Damascus since the start of Syria's year-long opposition uprising against President Assad's autocratic rule.

SANA says the fighting began when security forces stormed a Mazzeh apartment used as a hideout by what it called an "armed terrorist" group.  Syrian authorities say the uprising is driven by terrorist gangs carrying out a foreign conspiracy to topple President Assad.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said several "armed groups of defectors" entered Mazzeh from outlying areas of Damascus and fired a rocket-propelled grenade at the house of an army brigadier general.  It said the ensuing battle killed at least three rebels and wounded 18 government soldiers.

There was no independent confirmation of the casualties or how the Damascus fighting started.  But, it was a show of force by the rebels after pro-Assad troops recently drove them out of opposition strongholds in the central city of Homs and the northern city of Idlib.

UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan addresses media (March 13, 2012 file photo)
UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan addresses media (March 13, 2012 file photo)

Russia said Monday the Syrian government and its armed opponents should immediately start observing daily humanitarian truces to enable the International Committee of the Red Cross to evacuate civilians and treat the wounded in areas affected by fighting.

The Russian government made the statement after ICRC president Jakob Kellenberger met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow.  Kellenberger made the trip to urge Russia to use its influence as a Syrian ally to press the Assad government to lay down its arms for several hours a day.

Arab League mission

The U.N.-Arab League special envoy for Syria, Kofi Annan, sent a five-member team to Damascus on Sunday to begin talks with Syrian officials on implementing his plan for ending the country's conflict.  A spokesman for Annan says the international experts will stay in Syria as long as they are making progress in reaching agreements on a cease-fire between the government and the rebels and starting a national dialogue.

France proposed a U.N. Security Council statement expressing full support for the work of Annan and his team. Diplomats said Western powers backing the draft presidential statement hope it will be adopted on Tuesday.

In other developments on Monday, witnesses and activists said Syrian government troops and tanks carried out raids in the eastern region of Deir al-Zor and the northern region of Idlib to try to drive out rebels of the Free Syrian Army.

The United Nations says at least 8,000 people have been killed in the Assad government's violent crackdown on the revolt, which began with peaceful protests and became increasingly militarized as army defectors attacked pro-Assad troops who assaulted civilians.

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Some information for this report was provided by Reuters.

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Comments
     
by: Plain Mirror
March 19, 2012 2:37 PM
The violent bell is ringing on the head of Syria today just as it rang months before now on other Arab and African countries. What is the rythym of this sound if one may ask? Simply "demonic craziness" called democracy. Who is behind all these? ... another question. The top most gang stars called EUROPIAN UNION. The foremen... , Obama and Sarkozy.

by: Well wisher to the Syrian people
March 19, 2012 12:44 PM
Sad, very sad to see such wanton destruction allowed to continue without any form of reprimand to the culprit. It's inevitable for change to come to Syria, like it did come to the other Arab countries with the youth revolting. Its a matter of time for Syrians to take back their country, when they do they will make the leader understand the kind of damage he was inflicting on the Syrian people. There is always payback, and it comes when it is most inconvenient.

by: Hassan
March 19, 2012 8:51 AM
This shows that the Syrian civil war has reached Damascus. Assad’s opponents know if they stop fighting for democracy in Syria, Assad will eventually kill them all. So for the Syrian freedom fighters it is victory or death. Syria’s economy will eventually collapse under the current conditions. It’s best that Assad and his aides leave Syria before they face the same ending like Gadhafi. Entities in the Syrian administration need to negotiate a transitional government while the opportunity exists.

by: Ogbe Best Augustine
March 19, 2012 7:06 AM
I want to commend Voice of America (VOA) for full coverage of African news and developments especially in the political affairs.One of the most appreciated programme of this broadcasting station is 'day break Africa'. Every day, I do wake up day break africa.

by: aet.gvisan@gmail.com
March 19, 2012 5:52 AM
When I was in Romania, under the boots of communists, we listen and respected Voice of America.

Now , American and Western media is in the hands of liars and conspirators.

Romanian anticommunist Revolution was stolen by communists in bed with the new world order conspirators who destroyed the country. Communist crimes are forgotten .

The new world order conspirators did the same thing with Lybia and Irak, etc., and they planned to do the same with Syria.

by: PJ
March 19, 2012 4:07 AM
Most know their al-Qaeda insurgents we pay to be there.
If you want to keep up your lies and continue to make a fool out of yourself then fine.
You the writer, you are supposed to be giving us the news, not propaganda!
And you, employees of the people should be ashamed of yourselves and your heritage!
You think you clever, sneaky and devious in your ways. All the while not having a single mandate to do any of this! Simply disgusting behaviour indeed!

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