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Syrian forces hammer rebel strongholds near capital


14:44, January 20, 2013

DAMASCUS, Jan. 19 (Xinhua) -- The Syrian army backed by air forces pounded Saturday several rebel strongholds in the outskirts of the capital Damascus while clashes elsewhere intensified in the war-engulfed country.

Artillery and airstrikes were reported to have hit the southwestern suburbs of Daraya and Muadamieh, according to activists, who added that many people were killed in the raid.

Daraya and the adjacent Muadamieh have emerged as two strongholds of armed rebels and the clashes there have been raging on for nearly two months. The Syrian army is reported to be poised to launch a wide-scale operation to wrest back control over those areas.

Clashes, meanwhile, raged on in the Yarmouk camp for Palestinian refugees in Damascus between local committees and the rebels, activists and local media said.

Managing to stay away during most of Syria's 22-month-old crisis, the Palestinian refugees in Damascus recently found themselves drawn into the whirlpool of violence in Syria.

A senior Palestinian official has recently stated that more than 780 Palestinians have been killed in Syria since the eruption of the crisis in March, 2011.

Meanwhile, four bomb shells slammed central Damascus on Saturday, causing material losses with no reports of casualties. The shells mainly struck the Rukin Addien sprawling area and the nearby Mazraa district, local media and activists said.

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