Syrian jets bomb rebel-held areas near Damascus

Two dead bodies lie on a street in the Saif al-Dawlah neighborhood of Aleppo, Syria, Sunday, Jan. 13, 2013. The revolution against the Syrian regime started in March 2011 with peaceful protests but morphed into a civil war that has killed more than 60,000 people, according to a recent United Nations estimate. (AP Photo/Andoni Lubaki)

Two dead bodies lie on a street in the Saif al-Dawlah neighborhood of Aleppo, Syria, Sunday, Jan. 13, 2013. The revolution against the Syrian regime started in March 2011 with peaceful protests but morphed into a civil war that has killed more than 60,000 people, according to a recent United Nations estimate. (AP Photo/Andoni Lubaki)

BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian warplanes bombed rebel-held areas near Damascus on Thursday as President Bashar Assad's troops battled opposition fighters for control of a strategic road that links the capital with the main airport.

The fighting around Damascus is part of the government offensive to dislodge rebels from towns and villages ringing the Syrian capital that have been opposition strongholds since the beginning of the uprising against Assad's rule nearly two years ago.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said fighter jets carried out eight airstrikes on Daraya, a strategic suburb close to a key military air base southwest of Damascus. The group, which relies on reports from activists on the ground, also said heavy fighting was going on Thursday near the Damascus International Airport, and that the regime was shelling the town of Aqraba along the airport road. There were no immediate reports of casualties.

According to the United Nations, more than 60,000 people have been killed in the Syrian conflict since it began in March 2011. What started as peaceful protests against Assad's rule turned quickly into a civil war after some opposition supporters took up arms to fight a brutal government crackdown on dissent.

Because of its strategic location near a military base, Syrian troops have been pounding rebel positions in Daraya for weeks. Earlier this month, the government claimed its troops had regained control over much of the district from where the rebels have been threatening Damascus, the seat of Assad's power.

Daraya is flanked by the key districts of Mazzeh, which is home to the military air, and Kfar Sousseh, where the government headquarters, the General Security intelligence agency head office and the Interior Ministry are located.

State-run news agency SANA said Thursday that troops have been battling rebels in the oil-rich province of al-Hasaka in the country's northeast, killing and wounding several terrorist. The government and state media refer to rebels as terrorists.

Also in the north, SANA said terrorists shot a math teacher in the town of Hmaida in Raqqa province. The report said the teacher, Nabih Jamil al-Saad, was killed near his home on Wednesday.

A day earlier, a doctor was killed in front of his clinic in Sheik Mheddin area of Damascus, SANA said Thursday, saying that terrorist were behind the killing of Mamdouh Abudllah Bin Abd Dibeh, who was a cardiologist.

It was not clear if either the teacher or the doctor had ties to the regime. Rebels have targeted government officials, civil workers and prominent personalities, such as actors, known Assad supporters.

___

Associated Press writer Albert Aji in Damascus, Syria, contributed to this report.
Associated Press
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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