Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Syrian Army General Slain outside Home in Damascus

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Syrian Army General Slain outside Home in Damascus

Article excerpt

BEIRUT -- Gunmen assassinated an army general in Damascus Saturday in the first killing of a high ranking military officer in the Syrian capital since the uprising against President Bashar Assad's regime began in March, the country's state-run news agency said.

The attack could be a sign that armed members of the opposition, who have carried out attacks on the military elsewhere in the country, are trying to step up action in the tightly controlled capital, which has been relatively quiet compared to other cities.

SANA news agency reported that three gunmen opened fire at Brig. Gen. Issa al-Khouli Saturday morning as he left his home in the Damascus neighborhood of Rukn-Eddine. Gen. Khouli was a doctor and the chief of a military hospital in the capital.

Capt. Ammar al-Wawi of the Free Syrian Army, a rebel group that wants to bring down the regime by force, denied involvement in the assassination, which came a day after two suicide car bombers struck security compounds in Aleppo.

Such assassinations are not uncommon outside Damascus and army officers have been killed in the past, mostly in the restive provinces of Homs and Idlib.

Also on Saturday, clashes between pro- and anti-Syria gunmen in a northern Lebanese city left two people dead and 12 wounded in the latest skirmish between Lebanese factions over the crisis in neighboring Syria, security officials said.

The two sides fired on each other from rival neighborhoods in Tripoli, one dominated by Sunnis, the other by Alawites. Officials said clashes started Friday night and continued sporadically Saturday.

Lebanese factions have been divided over the Syrian uprising, and tensions have intensified with the regime's siege of the central Syrian city of Homs that has reportedly killed hundreds this week. Mr. Assad's regime is dominated by Alawites, while the revolt against him has been led by Sunnis.

The battle took place between the Sunni neighborhood of Bab Tabbaneh and the Alawite district of Jabal Mohsen, which is positioned on a hill overlooking its rival. Gunmen fired automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades from among houses and alleys across the avenue that separates the two districts, ironically named Syria Street.

Each side blamed the other for starting the latest bout of violence. By the time a shaky truce was reached Saturday, two people were dead -- one from each side -- and 12 people wounded, half of them soldiers trying to stop the clashes.

On Saturday, violence in other parts of Syria left at least 17 people dead as regime troops pushed into rebel-held neighborhoods in the central city of Homs and seized parts of the mountain town of Zabadani, north of Damascus.

The U.N. estimates that 5,400 people have been killed in Syria since the uprising began in March. But that figure is from January, when the world body stopped counting because the chaos in the country has made it all but impossible to check the figures. …

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