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Hot clashes rock Damascus district, restive suburbs: activists

DAMASCUS, Aug. 3 (Xinhua) -- Intense clashes between Syrian government troops and armed rebels erupted Saturday in a restive district of the capital Damascus, amid ongoing fighting in southern suburbs, activists said.

The clashes Saturday in Damascus' district of Barzeh were ignited when government troops tried to storm the district backed with heavy shelling on the area, the oppositional Local Coordination Committees (LCC) reported.

The LCC also reported heavy shelling on the eastern suburbs of Jobar and Hamorieh, other hotspots in the country's 28-month crisis.

Meanwhile, the activists' Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said several battalions of the armed rebels, including the al- Qaida-linked Nusra Front, have attacked and taken over three weapon depots of the Syrian army at the town of Qaldoun near Damascus.

It said the seizure of the arms depots came after intense fighting between the attacking groups and the Syrian army overnight. Yet, the Observatory stopped short of giving further details about death toll and other losses.

It, however, specified the weapons as including anti-armor arms, surface-to-surface Grad rockets and several different types of ammunition. The report couldn't be independently verified.

The rebels have recently stepped up their assaults in the suburbs of Damascus in the hope of creating inroads to the heavily fortified capital. On Friday, the state-media said government army succeeded to dislodge the rebels from al-Matahen area, which is close to the road to the international airport of Damascus.

Earlier in the day, the pro-government Sama TV said it cited a very well-informed source as denying media reports that a total of 30 Syrian soldiers were killed Saturday at the hands of the rebels in Damascus' countryside.

The United Nations said recently that more than 100,000 people had been killed in Syria's 28-month crisis, with about 1.7 million forced to seek refuge in neighboring countries.

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