AMMAN: Elite Syrian government troops backed by tanks battled on Monday to recapture a strategic Damascus suburb from rebels who have advanced within striking distance of the centre of Syria's capital.
Five people, including a child, died from army rocket fire that hit the Daraya suburb during the fighting, opposition activists said.
Daraya is part of a semi-circle of Sunni Muslim suburbs south of the capital that have been at the forefront of the 21-month-old revolt against President Bashar al-Assad.
"This is the biggest attack on Daraya in two months. An armoured column is trying to advance but it is being held (back) by the Free Syrian Army," said Abu Kinan, an opposition activist in the area, referring to a rebel group.
Clashes were also reported near the airport in Aleppo, Syria's largest city, which is in the north. Insurgents have made that airport a target in the hope of limiting government access to Aleppo, which is largely under rebel control.
Rebels have taken much of the north and east of Syria over the past six months, but government forces still hold most of the densely populated southwest around the capital, the main north-south highway and the Mediterranean coast.
Center>Copyright Reuters, 2012