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Syria tanks, warplanes pound Damascus region



Beirut: Syrian warplanes and tanks pounded rebel strongholds in Damascus province on Tuesday, a watchdog said, as a pro-regime daily reported clashes in a camp housing Palestinian refugees. Fighter jets launched strikes on the town of Douma, northeast of Damascus, and overflew parts of Eastern Ghuta region, home to some of the rebel Free Syrian Army's fiercest and best-organised groups, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The army, as part of its campaign to suppress the insurgency near Damascus once and for all, used tanks to pound the towns of Daraya and Moadamiyat al-Sham, southwest of the capital, and Yalda and Beit Sahem, just to the city's south. Meanwhile, a pro-regime newspaper made a rare, open admission of the air force's use of strikes in Damascus province. "The Syrian army has continued to chase armed men from their lairs, in battles using all kinds of weapons, including artillery and air power," said Al-Watan.

It also reported that tension prevailed in the Yarmuk camp housing Palestinian refugees in the capital. "The situation in the Yarmuk camp, where armed men have flocked, is still tense, and clashes between Palestinian (pro-regime) popular committees and armed groups have continued," Al-Watan reported, citing fleeing residents. Yarmuk witnessed fierce clashes in December when warplanes staged two air strikes on the densely populated camp, leading thousands of people to flee. Despite bids to demilitarise the area, clashes pitting rebels fighting the regime of President Bashar al-Assad against the army and pro-regime Palestinian militia have been reported.

Elsewhere, at least 56 fighters were killed in six days of fighting in the majority Kurdish city of Ras al-Ain, on the Turkish border, said the Observatory which relies on a network of doctors, medics and lawyers on the ground for its information. Tuesday's violence came a day after at least 189 people were killed in violence across Syria, said the Observatory, including 42 people who died in a suicide attack in Salamiyeh, a town in the central province of Hama.

"Medical sources and residents in Salamiyeh have confirmed... that the number of people killed in a suicide attack targeting a pro-regime militia headquarters has risen to 42," said the Observatory, updating its earlier tolls. Among the dead were "a large number of civilians, including women and children," it added.

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