Syrian protestors at a funeral 311.
(photo credit: Reuters)
BEIRUT - Syrian rebels seized parts of the town of Douma near the capital Damascus on Saturday and then withdrew to their hideouts, activists said.
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Night-time gunbattles and explosions rocked Douma, 14 kilometres (9 miles) northwest of the capital, activists said. Douma has been a center of protests in the 10-month revolt against President Bashar Assad.
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The head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the fighters retreated to their hideouts once they had pushed state forces outside of Douma.
"It seems they chose not to hold on to the territory, most likely because it could offer the regime an excuse to storm the area," Rami Abdelrahman told Reuters.
The fighting posed no direct threat to Damascus itself but may be seen
as too close for comfort to the government, which has launched a heavy
crackdown since unrest began in March.
One resident told Reuters the move marked the first time rebels, who
call themselves the Free Syrian Army, held territory in Douma for an
extended period of time.
"No one can get in or out of Douma right now. This is the first time the
rebels do anything more than hit-and-run attacks. Tonight they started
making barriers in the streets," an activist living in Douma told
Reuters by Skype.
The fighting began on Saturday afternoon, after security forces killed
four people when they fired on a funeral march for a slain protester.
Ensuing clashes left dozens wounded, activists said.
Activists on Skype from Douma and the neighboring town of Harasta said troops were gathered outside the rebellious suburb.
Another resident in Douma told Reuters she had not heard of the
temporary takeover of the suburb but had heard a large explosion.
"One of the explosions was so loud it felt like the whole city shook," another activist told Reuters on Skype.