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Syrian military unleashes attack on refugee enclave

Syrian rebels said they had seized tanks and captured several soldiers at a military base in the city of Aleppo on Sunday.

Zain Karam/Reuters

Syrian rebels said they had seized tanks and captured several soldiers at a military base in the city of Aleppo on Sunday.

ANTAKYA, Turkey — Syrian jets dropped bombs on a decades-old Palestinian refugee enclave in Damascus on Sunday after days of intense fighting in the crowded neighborhood between Syrian rebels and Palestinians who support the government, opposition activists said.

The attack on the Yarmouk camp, home to 150,000 Palestinians squeezed into less than one square mile, underscored the ferocity of fighting a month into a Syrian offensive to beat back the insurgents in the Syrian capital. Warplanes also bombed rebel positions on a road to Damascus International Airport.

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Though Yarmouk has been shelled repeatedly by the Syrian military, this is believed to be the first time it came under an aerial attack.

The number of casualties on Sunday was unclear. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said eight civilians were killed in the attack near the mosque and a hospital. Other reports, also attributed to activists, put the death toll at 25 or more.

The political pressure on Syrian President Bashar Assad increased Sunday as his vice president, Farouk al-Shara, said that neither the government nor the rebels could end the conflict militarily, the pro-Syrian Lebanese newspaper Al Akhbar reported. He called for new partners in a unity government.

Also Sunday, an Islamist faction of Syrian rebels said it had captured an infantry base in the northern city of Aleppo, as forces fighting to topple Assad advanced on the country’s largest city.

A statement by the al-Tawheed Brigade said the rebels fully liberated a facility that has an army base, a recruitment center, and a military school. The al-Tawheed commander was killed in the attack, it said.

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A rebel reached by Skype said fighters had seized tanks and other vehicles from the Syrian military cache, and captured several soldiers to be held as prisoners. The base was the second major army installation taken by rebels in a week in Aleppo.

The Yarmouk enclave in Damascus does not fit the traditional image of a refugee camp. Rather than tents, it has multistory apartment buildings, paved streets, and schools. It was established in 1957 as a squatters camp for Palestinians displaced by fighting over the establishment of Israel in 1948.

Syria has a total of about 500,000 Palestinians, and many of them have been caught up in the civil war. Thousands have become refugees from the refugee camp, going to neighboring countries to avoid the violence.

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