DAMASCUS, Feb. 7 (Xinhua) -- Violent clashes have continued near the Syrian capital Damascus and other provinces on Thursday, as the head of the opposition abroad asked the administration to respond to his dialogue initiative before Sunday.
Six people, including three kids, were killed earlier Thursday when two mortar shells struck a bus station in the troublesome suburb of Qaboun to the east of Damascus, local media said, accusing the rebels of firing the mortars from nearby rebellious areas.
The incident came as clashes continued for the second straight day at the eastern rim of Damascus between the Syrian troops and the armed rebels, who have declared the start of their battle to " liberate" Damascus from the Syrian troops.
The pro-government al-Watan daily said earlier in the day that the army foiled the rebels' attempt to penetrate the capital.
Meanwhile, the pro-government Sham FM radio said the army's tracking down of armed groups is still ongoing in the Damascus' suburbs of Sbaineh, Hajar al-Aswad, Hajira, Ziabieh, Arbeen and Zmalka among others.
In the northwestern province of Idlib, as many as 300 rebels were killed Thursday while attempting to attack the military site of Wadi al-Daief, the report said.
Politically, Syrian Prime Minister Wael al-Halqi said the government is serious in undertaking all measures to prepare for launching the national dialogue based on the vision of President Bashar al-Assad. He noted that the government is contacting all the political forces inside Syria and the opposition forces abroad that believe in the national dialogue.
While welcoming the opposition that believe in dialogue as the sole way to end the country's crisis, al-Halqi made no direct reference to the conditioned dialogue initiative proposed last week by the head of the main opposition coalition abroad, Moaz al- Khatib, whose patience seems to be wearing thin as he reportedly asked the Syrian administration to respond to his initiative before Sunday otherwise he will cancel the offer.
Al-Khatib said last week that he is ready to embark on talks with representatives of the Syrian government but conditioned the release of 160,000 detainees from Syrian prisons, including all female political prisoners.
The Islamic preacher also stipulated that the talks should be with Syrian Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa.
He also indicated that the dialogue should result in the departure of Assad administration.
The Syrian government has yet to respond to al-Khatib's calls, but local pro-government political analysts said the government will not accept pre-conditions of the dialogue.
Some leaders at the Syrian opposition coalition, who are still adamantly rejecting the idea of conducting negotiations with the Syrian government, contended that al-Khatib had probably been subject to pressure, adding that the proposal reflects a personal attitude.
Syria has been engulfed in a bloody conflict between opposition forces and government troops since March 2011. It has so far claimed 60,000 lives, according to UN estimates.
DAMASCUS, Feb. 7 (Xinhua) -- The Syrian army foiled the attempt of armed rebels to wage a wide-scale offensive on the capital Damascus, the pro-government al-Watan daily said Thursday.
As the information has been flowing to the Syrian security forces about the rebels' attempt to attack Damascus, the Syrian troops carried out a pre-emptive operation on Tuesday evening, destroying many rebels' hideouts and killing many of them, the paper said, adding that the operation has pushed the rebels in the eastern suburbs of Jobar and Zamalka to unleash attacks against army checkpoints in those areas on Wednesday in a bid to reach the Abbasyen Square in the capital "to which they couldn't even get close." Full story
CAIRO, Feb. 6 (Xinhua) -- Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, his Iranian and Turkish counterparts, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Abdullah Gul, held a closed meeting Wednesday on the Syrian crisis, Egyptian presidential spokesman Yasser Ali told reporters.
Ali noted that Saudi Arabia's Deputy Prime Minister Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz did not attend the meeting, which was held on the sidelines of an Islamic summit in Cairo, as he went back to Saudi Arabia for private reasons.Full story
DAMASCUS, Feb. 6 (Xinhua) -- At least 35 people were killed and another 30 injured Wednesday when twin suicide car bombs went off near a military security branch in Syria's central Homs province, a pro-government online news website said, as the country's state media denies reports about deteriorating situation in Damascus.
The twin blasts were carried out by suicide bombers that detonated their explosive-packed cars near the security branch in Palmyra countryside of Homs, Ajel News website said, adding that more than 30 people were also injured.Full story
UNITED NATIONS, Feb. 5 (Xinhua) -- The United Nations on Tuesday warned that the ongoing conflict in Syria, which will soon enter its third year, has disrupted health services and led to worsening health and humanitarian situation in the Middle East country.
"The World Health Organization (WHO) said today that the health situation in Syria has worsened over the last six months, with heavy fighting in the rural area around Damascus," said UN spokesman Martin Nesirky at a daily news briefing held here.Full story