Syrian Forces Shell Damascus, 12 Killed
Syrian government forces backed by tanks have renewed their attacks in the capital of Damascus, killing at least 12 people.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that Wednesday's deaths occurred in Kfar Souseh, Daraya and other southern districts where anti-government rebels operate.
Residents said the shelling and aerial bombardment were some of the fiercest since the army reasserted control of the opposition neighborhoods. They said rebels who left the city last month during a government assault had started to return.
Activist groups also said that Syrian forces stormed a rebel-held town outside Damascus Tuesday, killing dozens of people, including at least 23 anti-government fighters.
Observatory head Rami Abd al-Rahman put the death toll in Moadamiyeh at 60. He said a number of those killed were participating in a funeral procession. Others appear to have been shot dead execution-style soon after the town fell to government forces.
VOA cannot confirm reports from within Syria because the government severely restricts access for international journalists.
The Syrian government considers rebels to be terrorists aided by international weapons and policies it says are designed to bring down the Syrian regime.
Stretched thin on multiple fronts, Syrian government forces have stepped up air raids against Syrian rebels, especially in northern cities, leading to rising civilian casualties.
Fighting in Lebanon
Also Wednesday, medical sources in Lebanon said at least eight people were killed overnight in the northern city of Tripoli in clashes between Sunni Muslims and Alawites divided over Syria.
More than 100 people have been wounded in fighting which erupted this week along a sectarian fault line separating rival neighborhoods in the Lebanese city. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is from the minority Alawite sect and the opposition is mainly Sunni.
On another front, a Turkish official said Tuesday about 2,500 people fleeing the bloodshed in Syria have entered Turkey in a 24-hour period, one of the highest daily refugee flows in recent weeks.
Rebels have seized a large stretch of territory in northern Syria near Turkey, forcing a new international debate about the value of intervention in the conflict.
Obama warning dismissed
Meanwhile, the Russian newspaper Kommersant reported Wednesday that Moscow believes Syria has no intention of using its chemical weapons and is able to safeguard them.
Kommersant quoted a Russian Foreign Ministry official as saying a "confidential dialogue" with the Syrian government has convinced Russia that "the Syrian authorities do not intend to use these weapons and are capable of keeping them under control themselves."
Assad's deputy prime minister Tuesday dismissed President Barack Obama's warning about what would happen if Syria were to use chemical weapons, calling it election propaganda. Qadri Jamil said the West is looking for an excuse for military intervention in his country, a move he called "impossible."
Jamil said during a visit to Moscow that sending Western forces into Syria would lead to a wider war in the Middle East.
Mr. Obama Monday said a Syrian chemical weapons attack would be a "red line" that would significantly change the U.S. handling of the situation.
Journalist's body moved
The body of veteran Japanese war correspondent Mika Yamamoto, killed during a gunfight between rebel and government forces in Aleppo on Monday, was transferred from a Turkish morgue and is expected to be returned to Japan on Thursday.
Two Alhurra TV journalists who were with her remain missing.
Alhurra's parent organization, the Broadcasting Board of Governors -- which also oversees the Voice of America -- has urged the Syrian government to ensure the safety of the two reporters, correspondent Bashar Fahmi and cameraman Cuneyt Unal.
Fahmi's brother, Nasser Fahmi, told Alhurra that Bashar was simply doing his job in Syria.
Reporters Without Borders spokeswoman Soazig Dollet said five foreign journalists have been killed since the start of the Syrian uprising. "Syria is now the most dangerous place for war reporter[s] in the world," she said.
Article by Mark Snowiss, VOA News