Damascus rebellious district cleaned of armed groups amid continued clashes in Syria
Damascus, Aug. 5 (Xinhua) -- A suburb of Damascus has been cleaned of armed groups after two weeks of fighting between Syria's government forces and armed rebels, the state media said Saturday.
The Syrian army on Saturday declared the troublesome district of al-Tadamun in the southern part of Damascus insurgent-free, state-run SANA news agency reported.
Al-Tadamun was the first district in the capital to have witnessed armed insurgency over the past two weeks.
An officer, while confirming the news, told Xinhua that displaced residents in the area can start to get back home. Despite the officer's placatory attempt, gunshots were still audible in the surroundings of the area.
After storming the area Saturday, the Syrian army uncovered a mass grave with 20 corpses of civilians and army personnel near al-Tadamun, a Syrian officer told Xinhua.
The mass grave was dug up when the army entered the area earlier Saturday, the officer said. The area had been controlled by the rebels over the past days.
While al-Tadamun was cleared, clashes have intensified in other areas of Damascus and the northern Aleppo province.
Conflicts were seen in Ruken Eddien, Salhieh and Muhajireen areas of Damascus, witnesses said. Many rebel fighters were killed in Ruken Eddien, reports said.
A latest report by SANA said an unspecified number of people were injured due to mortar shells fired by terrorists Saturday evening near a hospital in Damascus al-Abbasiyeen district.
With the resignation of UN-Arab League joint envoy Kofi Annan last Thursday, violence intensified in Damascus, northern Aleppo province and central Homs province.
In three districts of Aleppo, Syrian troops clashed with armed insurgent groups on Saturday, leaving scores dead or injured, and a number of the armed men were rounded up by the authorities, SANA said.
Insurgency has made July the deadliest month since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad's government broke out in March 2011, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Some 70 people have been killed across Syria on Saturday, including 47 civilians, according to the organization.
A total of 4,239 people, mostly civilians, died in July, bringing the overall toll of the 17-month conflict to more than 21,000, said Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the organization.
Separately, 48 Iranian pilgrims were abducted by Syrian militants in Damascus earlier Saturday, Iran's state-run IRIB TV reported.
Confirming the kidnapping, Majid Kamjou, Iran's consul-general to Syria, told IRIB that this group of pilgrims were scheduled to visit a Shiite shrine in suburban Damascus before leaving for Tehran.
Later in the day, the pan-Arab al-Mayadeen TV said the abducted pilgrims have been released, but the news was denied by an official with the Iranian embassy in Syria, who spoke to Xinhua on condition of anonymity. (Xinhua-ANI)