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Clashes intensifies in Syrian capital after killing of top officials

Damascus , Thu, 19 Jul 2012 ANI

Damascus, July 19 (Xinhua-ANI): The clashes in and around Syria's capital Damascus intensified Thursday, a day after the Syrian opposition managed to stage a blast that killed top Syrian officials.

The thundering sound of gunshots and mortar shells echoed in several neighborhoods overnight and through Thursday amid media reports claiming that hundreds of armed men have been killed over the past 24 hours.

The state-run SANA news agency said dozens of armed men have surrendered themselves and laid down their weapons in a number of neighborhoods.

The capital has been witnessing since Sunday a surge in clashes between the government troops and armed rebels, who are expressing unwavering support to bring down the capital.

The intensity of clashes ramped up Wednesday after a blast tore through a security compound hosting a meeting of top officials and cronies to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Syrian Defense Minister Dawood Rajha and his deputy Assef Shawkat were killed in the bombing, and Assistant Vice President Hassan Turkmani died later of wounds sustained in the blast. Shawkat is also the president's brother-in-law.

The broad-based rebel leadership has claimed responsibility for the attack and pledged more to come.

The attack dealt a strong blow to the Syrian leadership, which pledged to retaliate hard.

The streets of Damascus is deserted of passersby and shops are also closed, as people are now cowering in their homes, fearing the consequences of what the rebels have named as "the great battle of Damascus."

The opposition group, Local Coordination Committees, reported the Syrian troops' shelling on a number of Syrian areas, adding that more than 13 people have been killed so far Thursday.

They also posted online videos picturing the victims of clashes, some of whom were children.

Head of the UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) Maj.-Gen. Robert Mood said Thursday that Syria is not on track of peace given the intensity of violence over the past days.

He also said that there is no hope of military showdown, saying that without dialogue and concessions from both the government and the opposition, the coming days will bring more sufferings. (Xinhua-ANI)

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