Fighting Intensifies Around Damascus

February 08, 2013

Fighting is reported to be intensifying around the Syrian capital Damascus.

Reports say clashes and heavy shelling took place February 7 in districts controlled by opposition fighters as forces loyal to Bashar al-Assad try to reclaim them.

AFP reports government forces have retaken Karnaz, a strategic town on the Damascus-Aleppo highway.

The fighting comes as the Organization for Islamic Cooperation called for "serious dialogue" between the opposition and regime officials open to change and without "blood on their hands."

Reports said Iran, Lebanon and Iraq had reservations over the wording of the final communique from the OIC summit in Cairo. The communique ultimately was not issued.

Meanwhile, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta admitted for the first time that the Pentagon had backed proposals to arm the Syrian rebels, but the White House had rejected the idea.

Based on AFP and Reuters reporting