Fierce fighting has taken hold in the Syrian capital, Damascus. The violence is the result of a major push by President Bashar Assad to reclaim lost territory, as doubts over the future of his regime mount.
Syrian troops launched a major assault on rebel territory south of Damascus, a watchdog and opposition activists said Saturday.
"This is the 28th day the criminal Assad forces have attempted to break into the town," said unnamed activists in Daraya, an impoverished Sunni suburb, in a statement quoted by the AFP news agency.
"Daraya is the closest point to the Mezzeh military airport, which is currently the only facility used by the regime's officials and troops to move in and out of the capital," the head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Rami Abdel Rahman, told Germany's DPA.
The London-based Observatory also said that two explosions had been heard overnight in the southern neighborhood of Qadam. The Barzeh district had also been subject to mortar attack and army artillery rained down on northeastern suburbs.
Damascus has experienced fierce fighting this month; rebels are believed to control several patches of territory near the airport, and the regime is pushing to seize back territory within 8 kilometers (5 miles) of the capital. Such violence in the heart of Syria has fuelled speculation that President Bashar Assad could soon lose his grip on the country.
Meeting on Saturday in Beirut, the Russian, Chinese and Iranian ambassadors to Lebanon, emphasized the need for a political solution to the conflict, which is entering its 22nd month.
"The ongoing fighting in Syria, which targets the regime and is supported by some states, has so far only resulted in further death and destruction, and should stop immediately," the envoys said in a joint statement.
The developments come two days after Russia's deputy foreign minister, Mikhail Bogdanov, said that Assad may eventually lose the civil war. Bogdanov told the Itar-Tass news agency on Thursday that "the regime is losing more and more control in the country ... We cannot rule out that the Syrian opposition can get a victory."
This was interpreted by some as a change in the Kremlin's position on the Syrian conflict, but Russia's foreign ministry quickly played down the suggestion.
"Bogdanov reiterated Russia's position there is no alternative to a political solution in Syria," it said in a statement on Friday.
More than 43,000 people have been killed since the uprising against President Assad's regime first began in March 2011, according to the Observatory.
sej/pfd (dpa, AFP)
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