Army shelling kills 40 in Damascus

Syrian army shells crashed into southern Damascus on Wednesday and helicopters fired rockets and machineguns during an assault to shore up President Bashar al-Assad's grip on the capital, Opposition activists said.

They said at least 40 people had been killed in what they called the heaviest bombardment this month.

“The whole of Damascus is shaking with the sound of shelling,” said a woman in Kfar Souseh, one of several districts hit during the military offensive to root out rebel fighters.
At least 22 people were killed in Kfar Souseh and 18 in the nearby district of Nahr Eisha, activists said.

“There are 22 tanks in Kfar Souseh now and behind each one there are at least 30 soldiers. They are raiding houses and executing men,” an Opposition activist in Kfar Souseh, who gave his name only as Bassam, told Reuters through Skype.

More than 250 people, including 171 civilians, were killed across Syria on Tuesday, mostly around Damascus, Aleppo and the southern city of Deraa, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based opposition monitoring group.

Fighting a 17-month old revolt against Assad's rule, the army has used tanks and helicopter gunships this week in an offensive around the capital which has coincided with the departure of UN military observers after a failed mission.

Activists in the southwestern suburb of Mouadamiya said Assad's forces had killed 86 people there since Monday, half of them in cold blood. It was not possible to verify the report. There was no immediate government account of the latest fighting, but state television broadcast footage of weapons it said had been seized from rebels in Mouadamiya, which was one of the first areas to join the uprising against Assad.

The United Nations estimates that 18,000 people have been killed in what has become a civil war after a violent state response to peaceful protests generated an armed rebellion.

The conflict, pits a mainly Sunni Muslim opposition against a ruling system dominated by Assad's Alawite minority.

In Syria, Assad's forces have lost swathes of territory in recent months, but have fought back hard in Damascus and in Aleppo, the country's biggest city and its commercial hub.

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