Fierce fighting in Damascus


Syrian troops backed by armoured vehicles today entered the district of Midan in central Damascus to drive out rebels who have secured a foothold at a striking distance from major state installations, neighbourhood activists said.

In the biggest armoured deployment in Damascus in the 17-month uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, infantry fighting vehicles took positions along the main thoroughfares of Midan, a strategic Sunni Muslim neighbourhood, as rebels withdrew to alleyways and sporadic fighting was reported, they said.

"The rebels are trying to hold the army off in al-Zahra al-Jadeeda (neighbourhood). There is fighting there and the sound of bombardment and rocket-propelled grenades is echoing from there," Radeef, an opposition activist, said by phone from Midan.

"Armoured vehicles are now deployed in the rest of Midan and army snipers have taken positions on rooftops."

Another activist said residents of the large neighbourhood were staying indoors and the only movement seen was that of the army and its armour and rebels in the alleyways of the old district, which has been rebuilt since it was shelled during a rebellion against French occupation in the 1920s.

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