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Heavy clashes break out in Syrian capital

By The Associated Press

This article was published February 6, 2013 at 7:42 a.m.

— Heavy fighting broke out between rebels and President Bashar Assad’s forces in parts of Damascus on Wednesday, as twin car bombs detonated in the central province of Homs, killing at least 12 people, activists said.

The clashes in Damascus were the worst violence to hit the capital in weeks. Fighting was focused in the city’s western districts, and residents in the heart of Damascus said the heavy thud of shelling was louder than in recent months when government forces tried to dislodge rebels from the capital’s suburbs.

Damascus has not seen the same degree of fighting as Syria’s other urban centers like Aleppo and Homs, where whole neighborhoods have been destroyed. While the government has lost control of parts of those cities, it has kept a tight grip on the capital despite the rebels’ attempts to storm the city center from enclaves on its outskirts.

Rami Abdul-Rahman, director of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said Wednesday’s shelling of Jobar and Qaboun is part of a wider government offensive against towns and villages near the capital that have been opposition strongholds since the beginning of the anti-Assad uprising in March 2011.

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