BEIRUT Nov 20 Two mortar rounds struck Syria's
Information Ministry building in the capital Damascus on
Tuesday, state television said, causing some damage but no
Syrian TV blamed "terrorists" for the attack, referring to
insurgents who have been battling to topple President Bashar
al-Assad since last year.
The rebels have been trying to take their 20-month-old
revolt to the heart of Damascus, Assad's seat of power, and have
gained footholds in its southern outskirts and in many
surrounding suburbs. Some fighters said the mortars were fired
from the urban rebel stronghold of Daraya, which Assad's forces
had been bombarding from the air for days.
Fierce fighting has since erupted in Daraya, which is on the
southwestern edge of Damascus. The rebels in the area have
deployed near the main southern highway leading out of the
capital city, opposition activists said.
Elite Republican Guard troops backed by tanks were trying to
storm Daraya but met with fierce resistance from rebels there,
who have regrouped after a big army offensive on the area killed
an estimated 1,100 people six weeks ago.
Fighters around the capital have focused in recent months on
carrying out high-profile rocket and car bomb attacks on
government buildings that are often more symbolic than lethal.
The exception was a major bomb attack that killed at least four
high-level government officials in July.
Activist Samir al-Shami said the mortar rounds that hit the
Information Ministry building, which is located in the central
Mezzeh district of the capital, may actually have been aimed at
a football stadium nearby.
"We believe the stadium is being used by the army and has
been used to fire mortars on the rebels, so it may have been the
target. The rebels may have been responding to army fire,"
al-Shami told Reuters on Skype.
Assad's forces appeared to be on the alert for intensified
attacks this week, which the opposition has dubbed "March to
Extra checkpoints have been set up around the capital and
security forces have placed new restrictions on the movement of
residents in some parts of the capital.
Residents say that many families have been planning to leave
their homes, out of fear of military campaigns being prepared on
The revolt in Syria, which began as peaceful street
protests, has spread across the country and evolved into a civil
war in which activists say more than 38,000 people have been