Feb 5, 2015 4:43 AM

Syria: Rebel shelling of capital kills at least 3

The Associated Press

DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) Syrian rebels fired a barrage of rockets and mortar shells that struck several neighborhoods in the capital Damascus on Thursday, killing at least three people and wounding around 30 others, Syria's state-run news agency said.

Gray smoke billowed from several parts of the city, and the thud of shells and wailing ambulance sirens pierced the morning calm.

The shelling followed threats by a rebel commander to shower the capital with mortar shells to avenge deadly government airstrikes on nearby rebel-held suburbs over the past week.

Zahran Alloush, commander of the Jaysh al-Islam, or Army of Islam rebel group, had warned that Damascus would become a "security zone" as of Wednesday and until further notice. In a Thursday posting on Twitter, where he has some 120,000 followers, he claimed to have fired hundreds of rockets on Damascus and vowed to continue the campaign "until the capital is cleansed."

The shelling on Thursday hit several upscale districts, including al-Malki, Abu Rummanah, Kfar Sousseh and Mazzeh. The state-run SANA news agency said the shelling also damaged several houses and smashed cars on the streets.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said around 50 rockets were fired on Damascus Thursday, killing at least 2 people and wounding several others.

Government forces have been striking the rebel-held Damascus suburb of Douma and surrounding areas, where Alloush's group is based, carrying out deadly air raids and hurling barrel bombs from helicopters in an effort to dislodge the rebels.

More than 220,000 people have been killed in Syria's nearly four-year conflict, according to U.N. figures.


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