Middle East

Damascus fighting intensifies, Assad slams Arab League

A view of buildings damaged by what activists said was shelling by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in Zamalka, near Damascus, March 31, 2013. REUTERS/Seddiq al-Shami/Shaam News Network/Handout

BEIRUT: Battles in Damascus intensified Thursday, as the regime shelled suburbs surrounding the city, and fierce clashes between rebels and the army erupted in the outer suburbs, activists said.

By early afternoon 56 people had been killed across the country, including seven women and two children, and 12 in Damascus and suburbs, according to the Local Coordination Committees network.

Aerial bombardment targeted suburbs including Zabadany and Douma, where one child was killed by shelling, the LCC’s said.

Regime forces are also shelling the capital’s suburbs of Adra, Zamalka, Moudamieh and Mliha, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition activist group, said.

And at the entrance to Yarmouk, Syria’s larges Palestinian refugee camp, a 20-year-old Palestinian student was shot dead by regime sniper fire, the LCC said.

Heavy shelling was also reported in Homs, where fierce clashes between rebel groups and the army also occurred, and Aleppo, where 20 people had been killed.

Overnight, shelling was reported in Raqqa, the first provincial capital to fall to the rebels, and which the regime is attempting to take back. Material damage but no casualties were reported.

Also Thursday, Syrian state media criticized Jordan for hosting U.S.-backed rebel training, warning Amman risked falling into the “volcanic crater” of the Syrian civil war.

In a front page editorial in the al-Thawra newspaper, and in a message on state radio, Amman was cautioned against interfering in the now 2-year war.

State television said information on the training leaked by U.S. media show that Jordan "has a hand in training terrorists and then facilitating their entry into Syria," while state radio accused Jordan of "playing with fire."

Western and Arab officials say Jordan has been holding training camps for rebels since October. Amman

The warnings come a day after rebels secured a military base near the southern border with Jordan, following days of fighting for the site.

After gaining large swathes of ground in the north of the country, opposition groups are now looking to secure this crucial border region with Jordan. The Deraa-Damascus route will be important for winning the capital, the battle for which has also increased in recent weeks.

In remarks to Turkish media, President Bashar Assad also attacked the Arab League for last month handing a seat to the Syrian opposition.

"The Arab League lacks legitimacy. It's a League that represents the Arab states, not the Arab people, so it can't grant or retract legitimacy," Assad said in the excerpts -- published on his Facebook page – from a full interview set to be aired Friday.





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