Syrian regime forces strike back after bombing

Syrian government forces today struck back against rebels with attack helicopters and shelling around Damascus after an audacious bomb attack that killed three senior members of the ruling regime.

The whereabouts of President Bashar Assad, who has not been seen publically since yesterday's blast, his wife and his three young children remained unknown.
As fighting raged in the capital for a fifth day, the chief UN observer today warned that Syria was not "on the track for peace."

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said government forces were firing heavy machine guns and mortar shells and fighting with rebels in a number of neighbourhoods in the capital.

Many residents were fleeing the Mezzeh neighborhood after troops surrounded it and posted snipers on rooftops while exchanging gunfire with opposition forces.

The Observatory, which relies on a network of activists inside Syria, said rebels damaged one helicopter and disabled three military vehicles.

Rebels fired rocket-propelled grenades at a police station in the Jdeidet Artouz area, killing at least five officers, the group said.

Activist claims could not be independently verified. The Syrian government bars most media from working in the country.

Maj Gen Robert Mood, the Norwegian head of nearly 300 observers sent to the country to monitor a cease-fire that never took effect, said the mission was not working. His comments came ahead of a planned UN Security council vote on whether to renew the mission's mandate, which expires Friday, and impose new sanctions on the Damascus regime.

That vote had been scheduled for yesterday but was postponed after key Western nations and Russia failed to agree the text of a resolution aimed ending the escalating violence. "It pains me to say, but we are not on the track for peace in Syria," Mood told reporters in Damascus.

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