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DAMASCUS: Troops overran a rebel town and were locked in a second day of fierce clashes around Damascus yesterday, as Islamic states urged Syria’s regime and its foes to hold “serious” talks to end the bloodshed.
Opposition leader Ahmed Moaz Al Khatib has offered to hold peace talks with Syria’s Vice President Faruq Al Sharaa, but Damascus has so far ignored the initiative and intensified attacks on rebel bastions.
US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta, meanwhile, admitted for the first time that the Pentagon had backed proposals to arm the rebels, but the White House rejected the idea on fears of the risks involved, the New York Times reported.
After a 16-day onslaught, troops retook Karnaz on the strategic Damascus-Aleppo highway, said Rami Abdel Rahman of the Syrian Observatory for
The outgunned rebel “fighters withdrew from Karnaz, which they seized in December last year, after heavy fighting and regular forces regained control,” he told AFP. Clashes and heavy shelling rocked rebel strongholds around Damascus on the second day of an army offensive the Observatory said had killed at least 64 people on Wednesday.
Mortar rounds killed six civilians in the northeastern district of Qaboon, among at least 92 people who died in nationwide violence yesterday, according to a preliminary toll from the watchdog.
“The army is determined to crush terrorism around the capital and big cities, and over the past several days it has launched a qualitative operation and killed dozens of terrorists who dreamt of attacking and entering Damascus,” pro-regime newspaper Al-Watan wrote.
The Observatory, which relies on a network of sources for its information, also reported regime shelling and clashes along a southern highway of the capital.
On the outskirts of the city, the Observatory said troops pounded rebel positions across the east and in the south, and that clashes erupted to the northeast.
These areas are among the strongest bastions of the rebellion against President Bashar Al Assad’s regime, which is battling to suppress a revolt the UN says has killed more than 60,000