by Staff Writers
Beirut (AFP) Dec 16, 2012
Warplanes bombarded a Palestinian refugee camp in southern Damascus on Sunday for the first time since the start of Syria's more than 21-month conflict, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
"Warplanes staged an air strike on an area near Al-Bassel hospital... in Yarmuk camp, hurting several people," said the Observatory. According to initial reports cited by the watchdog, there may also have been people killed in the strike.
The air strike on Yarmuk was the sixth on Sunday on flashpoint districts in southern Damascus, the Britain-based watchdog said.
Warplanes also bombarded the nearby districts of Al-Hajar al-Aswad and Assali, scene of intense fighting between troops and rebels, it added.
"The army feels it has to step up its campaign to suppress the insurgency in southern Damascus, and that it cannot fight off rebels without resorting to air power," said Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman.
"As for the Palestinians, they are divided over the conflict, and are fighting on both sides," he added.
Syrian army shells southern Damascus: watchdog
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the army shelled the south Damascus districts of Assali, Al-Hajar al-Aswad and Yarmuk, a Palestinian refugee camp, where a young girl was killed.
Activists in the camp said Yara Abu Shaira was not yet two years old.
"Because of the shelling and clashes in the area, people fled the outer edges of the camp inwards, seeking safety," a Palestinian-Syrian activist told AFP via the Internet.
Meanwhile warplanes bombarded the towns of Nashabiyeh and Otaya east of Damascus, while tanks pounded the battered towns of Irbin and Harasta, the Observatory said.
Near Harasta, the Britain-based monitoring group added, there were sporadic clashes between rebels and troops waging an intense campaign to try to reclaim an eight-kilometre (five-mile) radius around the capital.
Irbin and Harasta are in the Eastern Ghuta area of Damascus province, home to some of the rebel Free Syrian Army's fiercest and best organised groups.
Southwest of the capital, tanks shelled the town of Daraya, which the army has been trying to retake for almost a month, activists said.
"Tanks renewed shelling the town of Daraya, while warplanes overflew the area," said the Syrian Revolution General Commission, a grassroots network of anti-regime activists.
Pro-regime daily Al-Watan said "terrorists" were intensifying attacks around the capital.
"Syria is facing a media campaign aimed at influencing diplomatic efforts to resolve the Syrian crisis, along with an escalation by terrorists around Damascus," it said.
Elsewhere, rebels clashed with troops near an important military academy in Mulsimiyeh just north of the embattled city of Aleppo, said the Observatory.
Clashes raged "after the army deployed reinforcements" a day after rebels captured two thirds of the sprawling complex, it added.
Al-Watan reported: "The army staged a tactical withdrawal, waiting for reinforcements to arrive."
The fighting came a day after at least 158 people were killed across Syria -- 47 civilians, 64 rebels and 47 soldiers -- the Observatory said.
More than 43,000 people have been killed since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad's rule erupted in March 2011, according to the Observatory which relies on a network of activists and medics on the ground in compiling its tolls.
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