Syria's army blasted rebel strongholds in Damascus with mortars on Sunday, sparking the “most intense” fighting in the capital since the revolt in the country erupted 16 months ago, a monitoring group told AFP.
The army's offensive, aimed at driving rebels of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) out of Damascus, was launched soon after Syria's foreign ministry held a press conference to deny its troops had carried out a massacre in Tremseh village on the weekend.
“The regular army fired mortar rounds into several suburbs” where FSA rebels are entrenched, Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told AFP.
He added that fighting was heaviest in the Tadamon, Kfar Sousa, Nahr Aisha and Sidi Qadad neighborhoods, adding, “(It has) never been this intense.”
“The security forces are attempting to take control of these neighborhoods but so far they have not succeeded,” said Abdel Rahman.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Friday that she is outraged by the reports of the massacre in Syria, demanding that the UN Security Council take action to stop the violence in Syria.
Clinton said in a statement that Assad's regime is deliberately murdering innocent civilians as it tries to put down 16 months of unrest and that history will judge the Security Council if it fails to act.
Chief of Staff of Iran’s Armed Forces Major General Hassan Firouzabali said that military plans have been drawn up to close the Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf, but added Iranian forces won’t shut it down until they receive the go-ahead from Iran Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Hosseini Khamenei.Earlier this month, the National Security and Foreign Policy Commission of the Iranian Parliament drafted a bill requiring the government to stop all oil tankers shipping to those countries that support sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union against Iran’s oil sales.Senior lawmaker Javad Karimi Qoddousi outlined some of the draft law’s provisions: “Based on the draft bill, the closure of the Strait of Hormuz will continue until the annulment of all the sanctions imposed against Iran, and the government will be allowed to open the strait only after meeting 14 conditions.”
President Barack Obama's National Security Advisor Tom Donilon visited Israel secretly over the weekend in what one Israeli newspaper says was an attempt to convince Israel not to attack Iran's nuclear facilities.He met with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and National Security AdvisorGen. Yaakov Amidror.Maariv-NRG says Donilon's visit reflects heightened U.S. concern that Israel intends to attack Iran sometime during the summer or early autumn. That concern has been heightened by the recent failure of talks between western powers and Iran. The Newssite estimated that the visit was intended to convince Israel not to launch an attack anytime soon.
Israel would prefer the U.S. to lead an attack on Iran instead of facing it alone. An Israeli attack could have unforseen consequences on the volatile Middle East, and a U.S.-led strike is seen as something Arab regimes will accept slightly more easily. In any case, repercussions against Israel are expected.
The office said that the attack lasted for hours, and that when the attackers left they stole two vehicles and other articles from the campers.