Syrian troops battle rebels outside Damascus

Near-daily fighting near capital as opposition forces establish footholds along edge of city, which they eventually hope to storm

This photo, taken in 2012, shows a general view of Damascus. (photo credit: AP Photo/Muzaffar Salman, File)
This photo, taken in 2012, shows a general view of Damascus. (photo credit: AP Photo/Muzaffar Salman, File)

BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian government troops battled rebels on Saturday in a town outside Damascus, part of a belt of communities around the capital that has been the scene of near-daily fighting in recent months, opposition activists said.

In the north, warplanes hit rebel-held areas of Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, killing five people, activists said.

The rebels control large swaths of northern Syria, including several districts of Aleppo that they took from President Bashar Assad’s troops last year as well as much of the border with Turkey.

Opposition forces have also established footholds in neighborhoods on the edge of Damascus and in suburbs to the northeast and south, lobbing mortars into districts in the center of the capital that they eventually hope to storm.

The State-ran SANA news agency said several mortar rounds hit areas near the Tishrin football stadium on Saturday. The stadium is located in the capital’s central Barakmeh district. The state news agency said there were casualties in Saturday’s attack, but did not say how many.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says Saturday’s fighting was concentrated around the town of Al Otaybah, east of Damascus.

In the southeastern Damascus suburb of Jaramana was hit by several mortar rounds, the group said. It sources its reports of daily fighting to a network of activists on the ground.

There were no immediate reports of casualties.

Damascus is the seat of President Bashar Assad’s power, and has been under his troops’ control throughout the two-year conflict.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

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