AMMAN - Syrian rebels attacked army roadblocks in Midan district in the heart of Damascus on Thursday to relieve pressure on outlying rebel strongholds being pounded by air strikes and artillery, opposition activists said.

President Bashar Assad's forces responded by bombarding the densely populated commercial and residential district, situated just outside the Old City walls, killing a woman pedestrian and a worker in a car wash, they said.

State television said "terrorists" had fired a mortar into the district, killing a woman and wounding three people.

It was the first serious clash in Midan since Assad's forces overran the area in July, in an armored offensive that dislodged rebels from footholds in central Damascus.

An opposition activist in the capital, who declined to be named for fear of retribution, said rebels fired rocket-propelled grenades and automatic rifles at roadblocks and other army and security positions surrounding the district.

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