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Mortars strike Damascus, killing at least 4

Mortars rounds struck several areas of Damascus, killing at least four people.

Damascus: Mortars rounds struck several areas of Damascus on Tuesday, killing at least four people, a government official said, while anti-regime activists said Syrian troops seized control of a neighbourhood in the central city of Homs that is considered a symbol of opposition to President Bashar Assad`s regime.

The Syrian military`s recapture of Baba Amr came as opposition representatives took the country`s seat for the first time at an Arab League summit, a significant diplomatic boost for the rebellion.

The seesaw fight for the Homs neighbourhood reflects the back-and-forth nature of Syria`s 2-year-old civil war. While rebels appear to be gaining ground, their progress is slow and their fighters remain vulnerable to Assad`s military superiority.

The regime has ample heavy weapons and a fleet of fighter jets but a shortage of ground troops, meaning it often abandons areas to rebel forces and then pounds them with artillery and airstrikes from afar, sometimes forcing rebel retreats. It also frequently claims to have "secured" areas only to report months later that it "secured" them again, with little explanation of how rebels got back in.

In Damascus, the SANA state news agency said mortar shells exploded in several parts of the city, killing at least three people and wounding others. Most of the strikes hit the city`s east side, falling near a school in the Baramkeh neighborhood, the Damascus Hospital, the Law Faculty of Damascus University and the state news agency`s own offices.

A government official told The Associated Press that four people had been killed and more than 40 wounded. The official spoken on condition of anonymity since he was not authorised to brief the media.

SANA said one girl and two other civilians were killed.

Mortars rounds also fell in a number of areas on the city`s west side, including the Christian neighbourhood of Bab Touma, SANA said.

The agency published photos of a hole in a wall of what appeared to be a school, medics treating blood-stained patients and firemen extinguishing burning cars.

It was not immediately clear who fired the mortars. Such sporadic attacks in the capital have grown more common in recent weeks as rebels have continued to clash with government troops on the city`s east and south sides. While the shelling rarely causes many casualties, it has shattered the aura of normalcy the regime has tried to cultivate in Damascus.

SANA also reported the explosion of a car bomb near the predominately Kurdish neighbourhood of Rukneddine. It gave no further details.