Assad's forces shell Damascus rebel stronghold, 4 killed

AMMAN Wed Sep 12, 2012 12:35am EDT

Damaged buildings are seen after an explosion on Sunday ripped through the northern Syrian city of Aleppo September 10, 2012. REUTERS/George Ourfalian

Damaged buildings are seen after an explosion on Sunday ripped through the northern Syrian city of Aleppo September 10, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/George Ourfalian

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AMMAN (Reuters) - At least four people were killed and dozens wounded on Tuesday in ground and aerial bombardments of one of the last rebel strongholds in the Syrian capital Damascus, opposition activists said.

Numerous buildings were hit by artillery and helicopter gunfire in Hajar al-Aswad neighborhood, they said. Footage posted on the Internet by activists showed holes in buildings and rubble strewn in alleyways.

Hajar al-Aswad is home to many Syrians who fled the Golan Heights in 1967 during the Six-Day War with Israel and many have now fled violence in the capital to return to villages near the border, 35 kms (22 miles) to the southwest.

The neighborhood is one of a series of Sunni Muslim districts on the edge of the capital that have been at the forefront of the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad, who belongs to the minority Alawite sect.

"Rebel operations from Hajar al-Assad had stopped, but today we saw the heaviest bombardment on the district in two months," said activist Abdallah Golan, from the opposition Damascus Media Center, speaking by phone from the scene.

Shelling was also reported on the southern Tadamon district, where rebels had pulled out, and the southern Damascus suburb of Yalda, other opposition campaigners said.

Government forces, backed by armor, artillery and air power, have attacked a dozen Sunni districts on the outskirts of Damascus in a campaign to put down the rebellion in the capital.

Activists and residents say the assaults have killed at least 2,000 people in the last two months and many were summarily executed after government troops made incursions in residential districts following ground and aerial bombarding.

(Reporting by Khaled Yacoub Oweis, Amman newsroom; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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