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Syria says security forces push back Damascus rebels

17-07-2012
16:45
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Syrian security forces have confronted fighters who infiltrated the capital Damascus and forced many of them to flee,  Information Minister Omran Zoabi said on Tuesday, denying media reports which he said "do not reflect facts on the ground".
   
"What is happening is that some armed elements infiltrated Damascus and tried to make a move in one of the areas. But the security forces surrounded them and dealt with them - and are still dealing with them," he told Reuters.
   
"Some (fighters) have surrendered and others escaped on foot and by car and are firing randomly in the air to frighten people," Zoabi said.

Syrian rebels said they had shot down an army helicopter over the Damascus district of Qaboun on Tuesday, the third day of fierce fighting in the Syrian capital between forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad and his opponents.
   
"Helicopters are flying at low altitude. It's easy to target them using anti-aircraft weapons," a senior rebel officer told Reuters.

The Free Syrian Army said on Tuesday that the "battle for the liberation of Damascus has begun”.   

The central Homs-based spokesman for the FSA's Joint Command, Colonel Kassem Saadeddine said the fighting will not stop until the whole of the capital has been conquered.    

"We have transferred the battle from Damascus province to the capital," said Saadeddine. "We have a clear plan to control the whole of Damascus. We only have light weapons, but it's enough."    

Earlier in the day, U.N. leader Ban Ki-moon headed to China as global powers ramp up efforts to respond to spiraling violence in Syria.     

The official People's Daily newspaper ran a commentary Tuesday opposing force against Syria and calling for a political solution, a sign that China may again block the resolution.    

Ban has warned that inaction would be "license for further massacres."                                 


Syria’s letter to Ban    

In a letter addressed to the UN Chief, Damascus called on the United Nations to exercise neutrality in dealing with the situation in Syria and contribute to the solution based on dialogue away from foreign intervention which prolongs the crisis and destabilizes the country.        

The ministry asked in its report to put an end to foreign interference in the affairs of Syria's internal affairs "and to stop its support of armed terrorist groups” and considered that “some countries seek to prolong the uprising in Syria to serve their political interest”.                                                 

Positions
    

For its part, the US Department of State announced its fear of violence spilling over from Syria to the rest of the region. Similarly the Pentagon also said that Syria’s security now tops its list of concerns.       

In turn, defected former ambassador to Syria in Iraq, Nawwaf al-Fares said that he fears that President Bashar Assad may resort to chemical warfare to fight off the opposition uprising in Syria.      

Meanwhile, Iraq called on Tuesday on its citizens living in Syria to return home because of escalating violence in its neighbor.    

The Iraqi cabinet voiced concern about the "increasing incidents of murder and assault on Iraqis living in Syria," government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said in a statement.    

"The Iraqi government calls on them to come home," the statement said, adding that Iraqi authorities would secure all means for their return from Syria        

On the field
      

Meanwhile, it has been reported that the Syrian consulate in Almaty, the largest city in Kazakhstan, sustained serious damage after a fire gnawed at its structure for hours. Workers say that the flare may have been deliberately set in reaction to escalating violence in Damascus. There was no immediate comment from the local police.       

This as Syrian rebels fired grenades at tanks and troops while regime armor shelled Damascus neighborhoods on Monday, sending terrified families fleeing the most sustained and widespread fighting in the capital since the start of the uprising 16 months ago.     

A ring of fierce clashes nearly encircled the heavily guarded capital as rebels seeking to overthrow President Bashar Assad pushed the civil war that has been building in Syria's impoverished provinces closer to the seat of power.    

While the clashes were focused in a string of neighborhoods in the city's southwest, for many of its 4 million people the violence brought scarily close to home the strife that has deeply scarred other Syrian cities.     

Syria's violence has grown increasingly bloody as the uprising has morphed from a peaceful protest movement into an armed insurgency.    

AP/LBCI/REUTERS          
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