Beirut: Mortars rained down on a crowded marketplace in a Palestinian refugee camp in the Syrian capital, killing 21 people as regime forces and rebels clashed on the southern outskirts of Damascus, activists said on Friday.
The attack on Yarmouk camp came as the government battled rebel fighters in the nearby Damascus suburb of Tadamon on yesterday evening.
Clashes there continued on Friday and sounds of explosions from the neighborhood could be heard as far as the mostly deserted Damascus downtown, with plumes of smoke seen rising into the sky.
The UN agency running Palestinian camps confirmed that at least 20 people had died in the shelling of Yarmouk.
The Britain-based Syria Observatory for Human Rights, which first reported the deaths, said the mortars hit as shoppers were buying food for the evening meal.
The activists with the group would not speculate on who was firing.
"We don`t know where the mortars came from, whether they were from the Syrian regime or not the Syrian regime," said Rami Abdul Rahman, director of the Observatory. He added they could also have been strays from the fighting in nearby Tadamon
The state news agency blamed the bombardment on "terrorist mercenaries", a term the government uses for rebel fighters, and said they had been chased away by security forces.
The incident highlights the precarious situation of not just Palestinian refugees but all civilians in Syria who are increasingly getting caught in the crossfire of this bloody uprising that has claimed 19,000 lives since it erupted in March 2011.
Every day hundreds of civilians are uprooted by the violence, according to the UN, which estimates that 1.5 million people have been force to abandon their homes but remain in the country.