Damascus: Syrian civil war barged into the heart of the country with capital city of Damascus witnessing an intense day of fighting between the regime troops and the rebels on Wednesday.
The fighting’s epicentre was the Jobar district and the area on its northwest that is bifurcated into two by Damascus ring road.
The latest spurt in Syrian conflict comes after the opposition leader Moaz al-Khatib renewed his offer for peace dialogue with President Assad, stepping up the pressure on him to respond.
Syrian National Council chief proposed that they were ready to negotiate with the regime if women prisoners were freed.
According to the reports what sparked the fighting was an advance by the rebels who launched attacks on army checkpoints in the regime-controlled western part to try to seize the road.
The government forces shelled the eastern and southern suburbs, trying to thwart the rebels who were equipped with rifles and anti-aircraft guns mounted on trucks.
Rebels claimed to have seized at least one checkpoint near a prominent mosque on the ring road, but it was unclear where the front lines were late Wednesday. Rebels often abandon areas soon after seizing them, fearing government shelling and airstrikes.
The government responded by stopping traffic to the Abbasid roundabout on the neighborhood`s western side and closing a number of roads nearby. Activists said the army also rained shells on rebel areas east of the city. Online videos showed repeated blasts in the nearby suburb of Arbeen sending up clouds of smoke.
Videos posted online showed dozens of rebels collecting in the area with rifles and rocket-propelled grenade launchers as well as rebel attacks on army checkpoints with heavy-caliber machine guns mounted on pickup trucks. Intense gunfire was heard in the background of another video.
Rebels also clashed with the army on both sides of the capital`s southern boundary, including in the neighborhoods of Tadamon and Yarmouk. Residents of southern neighborhoods said they could hear blasts and see smoke rising from government shelling near the rebel-held suburb of Daraya.
The sounds of the nearby violence terrified residents. Few cars were on the roads and many shops were closed.
According to the opposition Local Coordination Committees, over 162 were killed Wednesday out of which 77 deaths were reported in Damascus, reported the CNN.
Syria has been mired in a civil war for more than two years now with more than 60, 000 killed and more than 6, 00,000 having fled the country to neighbouring regions.
With Agency Inputs