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Hundreds killed as thousands flee

Hundreds killed as thousands flee

Sat July 21, 2012 11:07am

REBELS pressed their guerrilla fight to topple Syria's regime deeper into the capital on Friday, ambushing troops and attacking police stations as thousands of terrified civilians fled to neighbouring Lebanon and Iraq.

The death toll over 48 hours soared past 470 - marking one of the deadliest days of the 16-month uprising.

The UN refugee agency said between 8500 and 30,000 Syrians had entered Lebanon in the past 48 hours, and thousands of Iraqis have also returned home, a bitter trip for many who fled to Syria from their own country's civil war.

In Damascus, Syrian forces recaptured one battle-scarred neighbourhood and showed reporters the dead bodies of rebel fighters lying in rubble-strewn streets.

But rebels said they withdrew to expand their guerrilla war, pointing to the difficulty both sides will have in achieving victory in Damascus, the central bastion of President Bashar al-Assad's rule.

The fighting has shattered parts of Damascus, with rebels attacking at least two police stations and government troops pounding rebel districts with mortars, machine guns and attack helicopters.

The clashes echoed those seen elsewhere in Syria, with lightly-armed, disorganised rebels avoiding direct battles with better-equipped government troops while launching ambushes on their convoys and checkpoints.

The regime, for its part, has deployed overwhelming firepower, shelling from afar and sending attack helicopters that rebel weapons can't reach.

After days of intense clashes, regime forces on Friday retook Midan, a south Damascus neighbourhood.

"Our heroic forces have completely cleansed the Midan area of the terrorist mercenaries," Syrian state TV said, using government term for the rebels.

More than 170 people were killed across Syria on Friday, including about 50 in Damascus, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, pushing the death toll over the past two days over 470.

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