'Syria army shells Damascus suburb, kills 21'

Deaths over three days reach 70 in Daraya, opposition says; UN body says over 200,000 Syrian refugees have already fled.

Syrian refugees at Zaatari camp in Jordan 370 (R) (photo credit: Muhammad Hamed / Reuters)
Syrian refugees at Zaatari camp in Jordan 370 (R)
(photo credit: Muhammad Hamed / Reuters)
AMMAN - The Syrian army pounded the Damascus suburb of Daraya on Friday, killing at least 21 people on the third day of a campaign to regain control of outlying areas of the capital, opposition activists said.
Daraya, a sprawling Sunni Muslim working-class area, is located among the old Ghouta farmlands surrounding Damascus, where guerrillas have been taking cover after attacking government troops.
Opposition activists said the death toll in Daraya in the past 72 hours had reached at least 70, mostly civilians. A list of the names of the 21 killed on Friday included two children from the al-Khatib family.
The army used multiple rocket launchers at the nearby Talet Qawqaba base and artillery at Mezze Military Airport, west of Daraya, to attack the town, where rebels were still holed up, activists in Damascus said.
"There are lots of bodies trapped in destroyed buildings and civilians are trying to flee towards Damascus," an opposition activist in Daraya calling himself Abu Kinan told Reuters by phone.
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A witness in Damascus said the army was also shelling Daraya from Republican Guards positions on Qasioun Mountain, on the northern edge of the capital. "In the last few minutes nine shells were fired on Daraya from Qasioun," she said.
Fighting was also reported in a series of lower-middle-class Sunni suburbs that surround the capital, including Qatana, Sbeineh, Qadam, Assali and Hajar al-Asswad, they said.
Assad's elite forces, made up mainly of members of his minority Alawite sect and increasingly used to keep control of Damascus, are based in hilltop compounds in the capital and surrounding areas.
Syrian refugees top 200,000
More than 200,000 Syrians have poured into neighboring countries during the conflict, already surpassing the projection of 185,000 set out by the UN refugee agency for the end of this year.
The total reflects an increase of some 30,000 in the past week alone to Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan, but also takes into account a change in the way the agency counts those in Jordan, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said.
"We are now at a much higher level of 202,512 refugees in the surrounding region," Adrian Edwards told a news briefing in Geneva on Friday.
"In Jordan, a record 2,200 people crossed the border overnight and were received at Za'atri camp in the north," he said.
More than 3,500 people fleeing violence in Syria have entered Turkey over the past 24 hours, Turkey's Disaster and Emergency Management Directorate said on Friday, one of the highest daily refugee flows since the start of the uprising last year.
Edwards, referring to Lebanon where 51,000 Syrian refugees are now registered, said: "The deteriorating security situation in Lebanon is hampering our work to help refugees fleeing Syria's conflict, though operations are continuing."