Syrian army tanks shelled a refugee camp and nearby districts in southern Damascus today as warplanes bombed the eastern outskirts of the capital, a watchdog said.

The tanks were deployed at the Palestinian camp of Yarmuk overnight, as well as the nearby districts of Tadamun and Assali, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Fighting in Damascus has intensified in recent weeks, particularly in the southern belt where anti-regime sentiment is strong and in Eastern Ghuta east of the capital, where the regime launched fresh air strikes on Wednesday.

In the northwest province of Idlib, five people were killed as warplanes and tanks pounded the towns of Al-Tah and Maaret al-Numan.

Rebels seized Maaret al-Numan on October 9, and the army has tried ever since without success to take back the key town on the Damascus-Aleppo highway.

State television reported today that rebels on the same highway had confiscated three trucks of Red Crescent humanitarian aid.

The insurgents have gained control of large swathes of territory in northern Syria, AFP journalists have observed, and it is possible to move freely for hundreds of kilometres (miles) making only small detours around army bases.

Rebels made advances in the northern city of Aleppo today, taking the regime checkpoint at the north of the metropolis before dawn, a witness and security source said.

“At 3:00 a.m. rebels launched a major attack on the checkpoint in front of Al-Kindi hospital. They managed to take the checkpoint and gain control of the hospital,” which was vacated months ago, the security source told AFP.

“I thought this was the last night of my life,” said a 25-year-old woman who gave her name only as Nouran, whose home is behind the hospital.

“The gunmen had so many trucks with Doshkas (machineguns) and used more than 20 mortars to attack the checkpoint and the hospital where the army was staying,” she said.

“Now the gunmen control everything in the neighbourhood except the Palestinian refugee camp and an army base for missiles,” Nouran said.

Meanwhile, 18 soldiers were killed when rebels overran a military post near the northeastern border with Turkey in the mainly Kurdish province of Hasakeh, the Observatory said.

The clashes, which also left three rebels killed, came as warplanes bombarded the nearby rebel-held town of Ras al-Ain on the border, an AFP photographer said, adding rebel fighters right next to Turkey fired shots in return.

(This article was published on November 15, 2012)
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