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Regime Tanks in Aleppo on Oct. 5 (Reuters)
Regime Tanks in Aleppo on Oct. 5 (Reuters)

Syria: Another round of Clashes on Saturday

(Omar al-Shaar | Dp-news)
SYRIA- Continued heavy shelling was reported on Saturday morning by antigovernment activists, as Syrian troops backed by warplanes and combat helicopters launched attacks on rebel-held areas.

Opposition activists reported Saturday intense government shelling in Damascus suburbs, the northern city of Aleppo, Syria's largest and a commercial hub, and in the central city of Homs. The battlefield stalemate is most apparent in those cities.

On Saturday, government troops captured the city's Sakhour roundabout after days of heavy fighting, a Syrian official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Heavy shelling also was reported in Taibeh, a town near Homs, an early center of the uprising. Opposition activists said at least 10 people were killed and dozens wounded.

Amateur video from Taibeh, posted Saturday, showed several badly disfigured bodies being pulled from the back of a pickup truck by distraught bystanders. One body was carried away on a red stretcher.

In another video, masked rebel fighters posed with assault rifles in what they said is an air defense base east of Damascus they captured earlier in the week.

The video showed captured weapons, including anti-aircraft missiles, heavy machine guns and large-caliber ammunition. The rebels surrounded a group of captured regime soldiers. The captives, some with bandages on their heads, each stood up and gave their rank and name.

Press reports indicated that authenticity of such videos cannot be confirmed independently because Syria imposes tight restrictions on foreign journalists.

On Saturday too, forty government soldiers and nine rebels were killed when rebels took a town in the northwestern province of Idlib near the border, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

“The clashes at Khirbat al-Joz… ended when fighters of the rebel brigades took control of the area,” said the Britain-based watchdog.

“The fighting lasted more than 12 hours and resulted in at least 40 dead among the regular forces, including five officers, and nine (rebel) fighters,” it added after earlier reporting 25 soldiers and three rebels dead.

Nationwide, at least 88 people were killed on Saturday — 38 soldiers, 32 rebels and 18 civilians — according to the Observatory, which gave a death toll of 133 for Friday.

State television, meanwhile, said four Turks were among foreign fighters the army had killed in the Bustan al-Qasr district of the battleground city of Aleppo.

“Our valiant forces destroyed two vehicles fitted with Dushka (anti-aircraft heavy) machineguns and seven Mercedes with the terrorists inside, including four Turks,” it said.

Syria has repeatedly complained that it is fighting armed terrorists supported from abroad.

Syria`s state-run media said “Army Units Kill Terrorists, Destroy DShK-equipped Cars, and discovered a factory for manufacturing explosive devices near Damascus.”

“After a chain of qualitative operations over three days, the Syrian Arab Army eliminated the majority of the mercenary terrorist groups in Qudssaiya city in Damascus Countryside.” Syria`s official news agency SANA reported Saturday.

SANA added that Syrian armed forces' operations in Qudssaiya city resulted in releasing a number of citizens who had been kidnapped by the armed terrorist groups after being used as human shields.

It also reported “Units of the armed forces on Saturday continued clearing Deir Ezzor areas and neighborhoods of the armed terrorist groups which spread chaos in the city.”

In other developments, a Russian aid plane flew in to Damascus on Saturday with 24 tonnes of medicine and medical supplies, SANA said.

Also on Saturday, anxiety over the conflict spilling into Lebanon erupted again as unnamed Lebanese intelligence sources told local news media they had evidence that a prominent media adviser to President Bashar al-Assad of Syria was involved in a plot to stir sectarian violence in Lebanon.

The adviser, Buthaina Shaaban, was frequently a spokeswoman for the government during Mr. Assad’s early years in office, when he was portraying himself as a reformist. It was impossible to immediately confirm the accusations, and Syria made no statements on the matter.

Lebanese media, The Daily Star and MTV television reported that intelligence officials say they have evidence from phone records that Mrs. Shabaan was involved in a plot with Michel Samaha, a former Lebanese government minister who was arrested in August. Lebanese ex-minister Samaha was accused of transporting explosives to be used to assassinate Lebanese political figures in what authorities in Lebanon said was a Syrian scheme to instigate sectarian conflict in Lebanon.

On Saturday too and in Damascus, Syria`s President Bashar al-Assad made a rare public appearance when he laid a wreath at the country's Unknown Soldier statue in Damascus to mark the anniversary of the 1973 war with Israel, also known in Syria as the October War. Syrian state television broadcast the ceremony and likened the current crisis to the war with Israel.

Damascus denies it is facing a home-grown rebellion, instead blaming the violence on a foreign conspiracy linked to its support for anti-Israeli groups such as Lebanon's Hezbollah.

Since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad's regime erupted in March last year, a total of more than 30,000 people have been killed, according to the group.

As the government of Bashar al-Assad loses its grip on Syria; fears are growing that the nation itself is falling apart.
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