BEIRUT - Syrians woke on New Year's Day to countrywide aerial bombardment, while President Bashar al-Assad's forces and rebels fighting to topple him clashed on the outskirts of the capital.
Residents of Damascus entered the new year to the sound of artillery hitting southern and eastern districts that form a rebel-held crescent on the outskirts of the capital, the center of which is still firmly under government control.
In the center, soldiers manning checkpoints fired celebratory gunfire at midnight, causing alarm in a city where streets were largely deserted.
"How can they celebrate? There is no 'Happy New Year'," Moaz al-Shami, an opposition activists who lives in the capital's central Mezzeh district, said over Skype, his voice trembling with anger.
He said rebel fighters attacked one checkpoint in the district of Berzeh early on Tuesday. Opposition groups said mortar bombs hit the southwest suburb of Daraya, where the army launched a military offensive on Monday to retake the battered district.
Assad's air force pounded Damascus's eastern suburbs, as well as rebel-held areas in the second city Aleppo, and several rural towns and villages, opposition activists said.