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Pro-Assad troops fight back in Aleppo and Damascus

Pro-government forces in Syria have been fighting to retake rebel-held districts in the cities of Aleppo and Damascus. The human rights group Amnesty International claims that civilians face "horrific violence."

Troops were staging an intense counter-offensive across Syria on Thursday, with operations in several districts of the country's two major cities reported.

Forces loyal to President Bashar Assad launched assaults in several districts around the south of the capital Damascus, as well as the nearby town of Daraya.

The bombardment of Daraya was believed to have killed at least 10 people. Opposition sources said troops were conducting house to house searches in the conservative Sunni Muslim town, with little resistance from rebels.

The news agency DPA reported activists as saying that four children were among the dead.

The army was also reported to have recaptured Christian areas in the center of Aleppo after heavy exchanges with rebels.

'Imprecise weapons, unguided bombs'

The human rights group Amnesty International said Syrian civilians were facing "horrific" violence in Aleppo, Syria's commercial hub.

"The use of imprecise weapons, such as unguided bombs, artillery shells and mortars by government forces has dramatically increased the danger for civilians," said senior crisis response adviser Donatella Rovera.

The AFP news agency said the areas retaken included the neighborhood of Sulamaniyeh, the site of a Melkite Greek Catholic cathedral.

"The battles on Monday and Tuesday were very violent, and they lasted for many long hours before the army managed to expel the rebels," one witness was reported as saying. He added that dozens of rebels were rounded up.

Sporadic clashes between Sunnis and Alawites broke out for a fourth day in the north Lebanese city of Tripoli, meanwhile, breaching a truce agreed less than a day earlier. Nine people were reported to have been injured across the border in Lebanon.

rc / msh (AFP, dpa, Reuters)