World Bulletin / News Desk
Syrian government forces shelled the eastern suburbs of Damascus on Monday and clashed with armed rebels seeking to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad, activists and residents said.
Residents reported hearing heavy gunfire from around 6 a.m. (11 p.m. EDT on Sunday). They said the capital was shaken by several loud blasts, possibly artillery fire, two hours later.
"Every one of them feels like an earthquake," a resident in the central district of Adawi told Reuters in a telephone call punctuated by two loud explosions.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Assad's forces were targeting rural areas around the Zamalka and Ain Terma suburbs on the eastern fringes of Damascus, a rebel stronghold in recent months.
It said Monday's army offensive came after Assad's forces suffered heavy losses in the area on Sunday, when several military checkpoints came under attack.
The Observatory says more than 30,000 people, including 7,000 soldiers and members of the security forces, have been killed in Syria since the start of the uprising against Assad in March last year.
The army repelled a July rebel offensive in Damascus but Assad's opponents are still present in outlying areas of the capital. Rebels also launched coordinated attacks on the army last week in Aleppo, trying to break a two-month military stalemate in Syria's biggest city.
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The building, dating from the early 1960s and including a shopping centre and clothing workshops, had been evacuated, but firefighters were battling the blaze inside and it was not immediately clear if there were casualties.
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