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Clashes break out in Damascus

The Associated Press BEIRUT (AP) — Fierce clashes broke out in the Syrian capital on Sunday after insurgents infiltrated government-held parts of the city through tunnels overnight, a rare if brief advance after months of steady losses at the hands of government forces elsewhere in the country.

It was a surprising breach of Damascus’ security perimeter, where the government has effectively walled itself off from opposition forces encamped in two enclaves in the eastern parts of the city.

President Bashar Assad’s government has endeavored to maintain a veneer of normalcy inside the capital as his forces bomb opposition areas on the edges and suburbs of the city. Outside Damascus, hundreds of thousands of civilians are living under government siege and bombardment.

Residents said artillery shells and rockets were landing inside the heart of the city, and the activist-run Damascus Today Facebook group reported government air raids over the area of the clashes.

Infantry and tank reinforcements arrived on the government side to repel the attack in the afternoon, the group said.

With its military depleted from six years of fighting and defections, the Syrian government relies on a blend of official and semi-official forces to defend its territory, including Shiite militias from Iran, Iraq, Lebanon and other Middle Eastern countries.

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