Fresh clashes break out in Damascus

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iol wld march 24 damascus AP A destroyed Syrian army tank which was attacked during clashes between the Syrian government forces and the Syrian rebels.

Beirut - Assaults on several towns on Saturday resulted in at least 14 fatalities after fierce clashes between the Syrian army and deserters in the Damascus region overnight, activists and monitors said.

In the northwest province of Idlib, “26 tanks entered Saraqeb and took up position to split the town in two,” activist Nureddin al-Abdo told AFP from the town.

Explosions were heard and arrests were made as residents sheltered inside their homes, he said, adding that there was a considerable Free Syrian Army (FSA) presence in the town.

Abdo said the regime forces had already launched several search and arrest forays into Saraqeb.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said one man was shot dead by security forces in the town on Saturday and that a woman was also killed elsewhere in the province.

Security forces also shot dead a civilian at Khorbet Ghazaleh in southern Daraa province, the Britain-based Observatory said.

It was in Daraa that the revolt against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad first broke out in mid-March last year. Since then, at least 9,100 people have been killed, according to estimates by monitors.

The regime blames the violence on “armed terrorist groups.”

The Observatory also reported that the central protest hub of Homs and the nearby town of Qusayr have been under mortar fire from the army since early on Saturday.

It said four civilians were killed in Homs and three in Qusayr.

In the central province of Hama, the town of Qalaat al-Madiq which the military has been trying to take for two weeks also came under mortar bombardment and heavy machinegun fire, the NGO said.

The Observatory said three soldiers were killed in an ambush in northeastern Hassaka province, while another was killed in Daraa.

Meanwhile, “very violent” clashes broke out in the Damascus area overnight, activist Mohammed al-Shami told AFP.

He reported that explosions and small arms fire could be heard across a large part of Damascus province and in districts of the city itself, as anti-regime protests were staged in Douma and Artuz close to the capital.

The Observatory on Saturday reported snipers and heavy armour in Douma.

A huge night-time demonstration also took place in the Kfar Sousa district of Damascus, where eight people were wounded on Friday when security forces opened fire to disperse protesters, videos posted on YouTube showed.

Videos posted by activists also featured overnight protests in several districts of Syria's second city Aleppo.

Shami said the security services and Shabiha regime militiamen also launched search and arrest operations in the Damascus district of Al-Asalli. - Sapa-AFP

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