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Rebels hit Syrian army headquarters in Damascus

Youssef Boudlal / Reuters

A Free Syrian Army fighter takes up position to fire a rocket-propelled grenade in Aleppo on Sunday.

AMMAN - Syrian rebels said they planted bombs inside the Syrian army's General Staff headquarters in central Damascus on Sunday as President Bashar al-Assad's forces bulldozed buildings to the ground in parts of the capital that have backed the uprising.

Syrian state television said four people were wounded in what it called a terrorist attack on the General Staff compound in the highly guarded Abu Rummaneh district, where another bomb attack killed four of Assad's top lieutenants two months ago.

Syrian rebels say they hit Assad’s air power

As the rebels demonstrated they could strike at the heart of the security apparatus, residents said army bulldozers moved on neighborhoods to the west, destroying at least 20 buildings in the Sunni Muslim areas that have sheltered the insurgents.

In the eastern Damascus neighborhood of Hazza, footage taken by activists on Sunday showed several buildings on fire. Opposition sources said the army had earlier stormed the area and executed 27 young men.


Snn Handout / EPA

An image from a video provided by the Shaam News network on Sunday shows a plume of smoke rising up after a shelling in the embattled city of Homs, Syria. Government forces shelled parts of northern Syria to target rebel strongholds.

"Any youth of fighting age seems to have been captured and killed," said activist Obadah al-Haj, who had fled the area.

Activist video footage from the area showed a young man lying dead beside a yellow taxi, shot in the face. Another dead youth was in the driver seat, blood covering his head and chest.

Assad belongs to the minority Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam that has dominated power since members of the sect led a military coup in 1963. Assad's father took power in 1970.

Loyalist forces killed at least 25 men on Sunday when they shelled and stormed al-Fan, a Sunni village in the province of Hama, opposition campaigners said.

The Syrian Network for Human Rights said most of the men appear to have been killed by shelling, but an unspecified number were executed when troops stormed the village later. The official state news agency said a military operation on Fan targeted "terrorists who were scaring citizens."


Assad stays cool amid reported slaughter on the bread lines

Video footage from Fan taken by activists showed women and family members crying over bodies wrapped in white sheets and placed in a row on the floor of a mosque.

As the uprising in Syria has spread over the last 18 months, it has taken on a more sectarian bent, with activists saying Assad's best trained forces are spearheading the fight in the capital.

Assad, who is backed by Shi'ite Iran and its Hezbollah Lebanese proxy, has lost control of rural areas in northern, eastern and southern regions and has used helicopter gunships and fighter jets to try to subdue the opposition.

But the aerial bombardment has driven fresh waves of refugees into neighboring countries, reviving Turkish calls for "safe zones" to be set up on Syrian territory.

With Russia and China blocking action by the U.N. Security Council however and little appetite among Western states, or Turkey itself, for committing troops to secure such zones, there is scant chance they will be set up any time soon.

In the U.S., Syria has occasionally popped up in presidential campaign rhetoric. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney told CBS News that he would send U.S. troops to Syria if needed to prevent the spread of chemical weapons.

“Clearly the concern would be that some terrorist group, whether Hamas, Hezbollah, al-Qaida or others would receive the capacity to carry out a mass destruction, mass death type of event,” Romney said. “And therefore America has to be ready whether it’s there or anywhere else in the world.”

On Sunday, Vice President Joe Biden said Romney is “ready to go to war in Syria and Iran.”

Biden did not use similar language on Syria at a later campaign stop.

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