Damascus apartment house hit in fighting

March 19, 2012 at 3:35 PM
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DAMASCUS, Syria, March 19 (UPI) -- Sporadic gunfire was heard Monday in a Damascus, Syria, area in what witnesses said was one of the worst battles in the capital city since the uprising began.

Syrian state television played images of apartments on the upper floors of a residential building in the tony residential district of Mazzeh that looked like they were hit by rockets, and spoke to a woman who said a government operation flushed out "terrorists" living in the building, Voice of America reported.

The woman, who said she was a resident of the building, said government forces told her "strange" people were using upper floors of the building. State television quoted the woman as saying she heard a noise from her first-floor apartment and locked herself in when shooting began.

An officer with the Free Syrian Army, the rebel forces, told al-Hurrah television they have been fighting government troops in the district where members of President Bashar Assad's government live.

For more than a year, anti-government protesters have been seeking Assad's ouster. Government forces have responded brutally, saying the opposition is made up of terrorist gangs and thugs as part of a foreign conspiracy to topple Assad.

Also Monday, witnesses said dozens of government tanks stormed the eastern city of Deir al-Zor in a move to claim districts held by the Free Syrian Army, VOA said.

Meanwhile, a diplomatic mission sent by U.N.-Arab League special envoy and former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan arrived in Damascus Monday for talks on a monitoring operation to end the bloodshed.

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