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Syrian warplanes strike rebels in Damascus suburbs

(AP) Syrian warplanes strike rebels in Damascus suburbs
Activists say Syrian warplanes and artillery have hit targets in the rebellious suburbs of Damascus, as fighting between rebels and regime troops rages near the capital.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says fighter jets carried out two airstrikes on the suburb of Daraya Sunday.

Just south of Damascus, troops shelled other districts that have been opposition strongholds since the uprising against President Bashar Assad began in March 2011.

The fighting over in recent weeks around the capital is the most intense since July. Opposition fighters are trying to push their way into Damascus, the seat of Assad’s power base.

More than 40,000 people have been killed in the revolt that began as peaceful protests but quickly became a civil war.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

A car bomb exploded near a mosque in the central Homs province Sunday, killing at least seven people, Syria’s news agency and activists said.

Elsewhere, the Syrian military pounded rebel positions in fighting that has steadily intensified in recent weeks.

Homs has been a frequent battleground in the 20-month rebellion aimed at unseating President Bashar Assad.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the number of dead from the bombing may increase, because some of the wounded were in critical condition.

The SANA news agency did not refer to casualties, reporting that the bomb exploded Sunday near Omar Bin al-Khattab mosque in the al-Hamra neighborhood of Homs.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility. The increase in bombing attacks as part of the civil war has raised concerns that Islamist extremist groups like al-Qaida are taking a larger role on the side of the rebels.

The official SANA news agency claimed that on the outskirts of Homs, the Syrian army killed scores of rebels in an attack on their hideouts.

Also in Homs, two other people were killed, including a baby girl, the Observatory said.

The Syrian air force launched airstrikes on the northern city of Aleppo, some cities in the northern province of Idlib, the Mediterranean city of Latakia and the southern part of the capital Damascus and its suburbs, the Observatory said.

In Damascus suburbs, it said two people were killed, including a member of the rebel Free Syrian Army, shot dead by a sniper in the Hetytet al-Turkman area. It said the other was a civilian who was caught in an exchange of fire.

On Saturday, Syrian troops backed by attack helicopters clashed with rebels, as government forces pressed a major offensive on villages and towns near the Damascus international airport, activists said.

Activists say at least 40,000 people have been killed in the conflict, which began with pro-democracy protests but has turned into a civil war.

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