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Syria war deepens: Damascus sees worst fighting yet (+video)

Fighting has intensified in the capital, a day after the Red Cross declared the conflict a 'civil war' and reminded combatants of the rules of war.

By Correspondent / July 16, 2012

A Syrian opposition flag is seen at al-Tadamun area in Damascus Sunday.

Shaam News Network/Reuters/Handout

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Amateur video from inside Syria appears to show street battles close to President Assad's doorstep.

Heavy fighting between Syrian rebels and government forces raged for a second day in Damascus in what activists called the worst fighting since the Syrian conflict began 17 months ago, suggesting the crisis has reached a new stage.

The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and local activists within Damascus told the Associated Press that the capital was the scene of gunfire and explosions Monday morning – marking the first time fighting took place in daylight hours.  Activist Mustafa Osso also told the AP that combat briefly shut down the highway between the city and Damascus International Airport: an unprecedented development, according to Mr. Osso.

"It seems there is a new strategy to bring the fighting into the center of the capital," Osso said, referring to the rebels who fight under the banner of the Free Syrian Army. "The capital used to be safe. This will trouble the regime."

Activists in Damascus also reported a major deployment of armored vehicles to the city's central district of Midan on Monday, which they called the largest deployment of armor during the uprising so far, according to Reuters.

"The rebels are trying to hold the army off in al-Zahra al-Jadeeda [neighborhood]. There is fighting there and the sound of bombardment and rocket-propelled grenades is echoing from there," Radeef, an opposition activist, told Reuters by phone from Midan. "Armored vehicles are now deployed in the rest of Midan and army snipers have taken positions on rooftops."

Syrian army defector Maj. Gen. Adnan Salo told Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat that rebels now control 60 percent of the country, and said limited military intervention from NATO would topple President Bashar al-Assad's regime, reports Haaretz.

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