DAMASCUS, Aug. 9 (Xinhua) -- The violence in Syria raged on Thursday, the first day of the Islamic holidays of Eid al-Fitr, raining down in several districts of the capital Damascus with mortar shells killing at least five people in a restive suburb.
Early on Thursday, sound of heavy shelling and hovering of military aircraft broke the dawn in Damascus in what reports said was a fresh face-off between the government troops and the Western- backed rebels who claimed to had targeted the convoy of President Bashar al-Assad heading to a mosque to perform the Eid prayers.
The rebels missed their target and Assad appeared at the mosque in the Muhajrin district of Damascus, praying with tens of his supporters and members of his government.
According to a video footage and still images aired by local TVs, Assad performed the prayers and congratulated other worshipers on the Eid occasion before heading out of the mosque and seating himself in the driver's seat of his car and taking off.
Syria's Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi denied the reports about targeting the presidential convoy as baseless and reflecting the rebels' "dreams."
Throughout the day, the mainstream media reported sporadic mortar shelling in pro-government areas, such as Qassa, Qussiour and the Saida Zainab area, where two mortars killed five people, including a child, and wounded many others in that Shiite- dominated suburb south of Damascus.
For their part, anti-government activists also reported heavy shelling by the Syrian troops on many southern suburbs of Damascus.
In the central province of Homs, pro-government Sham FM radio said the army killed as many as 40 armed rebels, including a leader of the prominent al-Fatah rebel battalion.
The army also advanced in the coastal province of Latakia, recapturing a pro-government village that had been overran by the rebels earlier this week, the report said, adding that the village of Blata is now secure and safe.
Yet, activists from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that the rebels stormed another airport in the northern province of Aleppo, after seizing a strategic airbase earlier this week.
They said the rebel forces stormed the Kweiris military airport in Aleppo, adding that clashes took place inside the airbase as the rebels burned some buildings in the facility.
Earlier this week, the rebels seized the Minnigh airbase in Aleppo after besieging it for over 10 months.
The rebels attempted to advance in the northern slice of Syria after losing many of their strategic locations in the central and southern region.
Experts said the rebels are trying to achieve a sort of balance with the far-superior army ahead of possible negotiations at the planned Geneva peace conference.
In a show of confidence, the head of Western-backed Syrian National Coalition (SNC), the main opposition umbrella group in exile, snuck into Syria on Thursday and performed special Eid prayers in a mosque in Daraa province, according to activists and a statement by the coalition.
Ahmad Jarba, the newly elected SNC leader, visited rebel-held areas in the southern province of Daraa and performed the Eid prayers in one of its mosques, the statement said, adding that Jarba also met with a number of families and exchanged congratulations on the Eid occasion.
The coalition said the visit "reflects the importance of the developments on the ground."
The SNC further posted a photo on its official website showing Jarba sitting crossed-legged in a mosque flanked by two men who were said to be members of the rebel Free Syrian Army.
The visit apparently meant to flex power and send the message that the rebels and their leaders have gained more ground.
The SNC has for long asked the international community to back the rebels with arms and ammunition that could tip the balance in the battles in favor of the rebels. Furthermore, it has stipulated the departure of Assad as a prelude to any political settlement.
DAMASCUS, Aug. 8 (Xinhua) -- Before the breakout of the crisis in Syria, the streets of the capital Damascus used to be packed with kids celebrating the holiday of Muslim Eid al-Fitr in theme parks and other public amusement centers. This year, however, parents are struggling to find safe places for their kids far from the danger of possible blasts or mortar shells which have become daily routine.
Muslims around the world celebrate Eid al-Fitr, also called Feast of Breaking the Fast, which marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. In Syria, the start of Eid is a bittersweet moment for all Syrians whose country has been gripped by a 28- month-old deadly conflict. Full story
DAMASCUS, Aug. 8 (Xinhua) -- The head of Western-backed Syrian National Coalition (SNC), the main opposition umbrella group in exile, "sneaked" into Syria on Thursday and performed the special prayers of the Muslim Eid al-Fitr feast in a mosque in Daraa province, the coalition said in a statement.
The newly elected Ahmad Jarba visited rebel-held areas in the southern province of Daraa and performed the Eid prayers in one of its mosques, the statement said, adding that Jabra also met with a number of families and exchanged congratulations on the Eid occasion. Full story
DAMASCUS, Aug. 7 (Xinhua) -- The United States on Wednesday announced an additional 195 million U.S. dollars in humanitarian assistance to Syria as at least six soldiers and 70 rebels were killed during clashes and blasts in the war-torn country.
The fresh aid came on the occasion of Eid al-Fitr, or Feast of Breaking the Fast, an important religious holiday celebrated by Muslims worldwide that marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan, a month of fasting. Full story
MOSCOW, Aug. 7 (Xinhua) -- Russia accused extremists in Syria Wednesday of taking revenge for their poor military position out on civilians.
"Retreating in an open confrontation with the government forces, the extremists take it out on vulnerable civilians, attempting to intimidate the people, to seed chaos, to aggravate inter-confessional discord," the ministry said in a statement. Full story