Syrian rebels, army clash in Damascus during U.N visit

BEIRUT Sun Jan 27, 2013 6:59pm IST

A Free Syrian Army fighter uses a shotgun to fire a homemade grenade at Syrian Army soldiers during a fight in the Arabeen neighbourhood of Damascus January 24, 2013. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic

A Free Syrian Army fighter uses a shotgun to fire a homemade grenade at Syrian Army soldiers during a fight in the Arabeen neighbourhood of Damascus January 24, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Goran Tomasevic

Related Topics

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syrian rebels clashed with forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad in southwest Damascus on Sunday, forcing the closure of the main highway to the southern town of Deraa, activists said.

The fighting came as United Nations humanitarian chief Valerie Amos visited Syria ahead of a U.N. aid conference which aims to raise $1.5 billion for millions of people made homeless, hungry and vulnerable by the 22-month-old conflict.

The United Nations says 60,000 people have been killed in the conflict, which started with mainly peaceful protests but spiralled into a civil war in which the mainly Sunni rebels have challenged Assad's control of all Syria's main cities.

In Damascus, the two sides fought around a railway station in the southwestern district of Qadam.

Footage posted on the Internet showed what activists said was a rebel attack on the station. One clip showed plain-clothed gunmen taking cover as gunfire could be heard. Another showed gunmen inspecting buildings by the track after what the narrator describes as the "liberation" of the station.

Another video showed black smoke billowing above concrete buildings, the result of what activists said was an air strike by Assad's air force near the railway terminal.

Syrian media did not comment on the fighting around Qadam and restrictions on independent media make it difficult to verify reports from activists.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based opposition group which monitors the violence in Syria, said jets and army artillery also struck targets in rebel strongholds to the east and south of the capital after fierce clashes there.

Amos, visiting Damascus ahead of Wednesday's U.N. pledging conference in Kuwait for Syria's humanitarian crisis, did not speak to reporters before heading for talks at the Syrian Foreign Ministry.

On Wednesday, Amos said Syrians were "paying a terrible price" for the failure of world powers to resolve the conflict, pointing to 650,000 refugees who have fled the country and the millions affected inside Syria.

"Four million people need help, two million are internally displaced and 400,000 out of 500,000 Palestinian refugees have been affected," she told an economic forum in Switzerland.

The United Nations and aid groups inside Syria, including the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, could not keep pace with the rising number of people in need, she said.

"We must find ways to reach more people, especially in the areas we are still unable to get to, and where there is ongoing fighting," she said.

Last month the United Nations withdrew 25 of its 100 foreign aid workers from Syria as fighting intensified around Damascus, but Amos said the organisation remained committed to maintaining aid operations.

Most of the money from the Kuwait pledging conference will go to support neighbouring countries hosting hundreds of thousands of refugees, while $519 million is earmarked for aid inside Syria. (Reporting by Dominic Evans; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

FILED UNDER:

Sony Cyber Attack

REUTERS SHOWCASE

Ten Years On

Ten Years On

10 years on, tsunami warning stumbles at the "last mile".  Full Article 

Exit Polls

Exit Polls

BJP unlikely to form Jammu & Kashmir govt - polls.  Full Article 

Forceful Conversions

Forceful Conversions

BJP distances itself from religious conversions.  Full Article 

Hopeful Dhoni

Hopeful Dhoni

India's new vintage nearly ready, says Dhoni.  Full Article 

Photo

Fund Raising

Flipkart raises $700 million in fresh funding.   Full Article 

Reforms Push

Reforms Push

Modi may order insurance, coal reforms if vote delayed - officials.  Full Article 

Ali Hospitalized

Ali Hospitalized

Boxing great Muhammad Ali hospitalized with pneumonia.  Full Article 

Going International

Going International

Bollywood’s Priyanka Chopra sets sights on American TV.  Full Article 

India This Week

India This Week

Some of our best photos from this week.   Full Coverage 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device   Full Coverage