Syrian forces shell two Damascus neighborhoods (+video)
Activists report over 30 deaths as a result of the bombardment Wednesday, part of President Assad's campaign to defeat opposition elements across the nation.
Syrian regime forces shelled two Damascus districts Wednesday before troops backed by tanks swept through to carry out house-to-house raids in search of opposition fighters, killing at least 31 suspected rebels, activists said.
The violence is part of a dramatic surge in fighting over the past month in Damascus, one of many fronts President Bashar Assad's regime is struggling to contain as the 17-month-old rebellion against his rule gains strength. Government forces are also engaged in a major battle for control of the northern city of Aleppo as well as smaller scale operations in the country's south, east and center.
Also Wednesday, a prominent opposition figure rejected as "more lies" comments by a senior Syrian official that Damascus would be willing to discuss Assad's resignation but only after the opposition agreed to join in negotiating a peaceful settlement.
"As for his resignation, making his resignation a condition for dialogue effectively makes holding such a dialogue impossible," said the official, Deputy Foreign Minister Qadri Jamil. "During the negotiating process any issues can be discussed, and we are ready to discuss even this issue."
Reached in Turkey, Adib Shishakly of the Syrian National Council, a key umbrella opposition group, said: "It's the first time that we hear such talk, but it's difficult to believe. We have grown accustomed to the regime's lies."
Around dawn Wednesday, regime forces in Damascus rained mortars down on the upscale Kafar Soussa neighborhood and the adjacent Nahr Eishah area of the Syrian capital, activists said. Government troops appeared to be shelling the districts from Qasioun mountain overlooking the capital, a Damascus resident said on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution.