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Syria - Feb 16, 2012 - 09:32

Last modified: 16 Feb 2012 06:32

Syrian armoured forces have attacked the southern city of Deraa - where protests began in March last year - on Thursday to try to stamp out opposition fighters, residents and activists say.

The sound of explosions and machinegun fire echoed through the city's al-Balad, al-Mahatta and al-Sad districts as government troops attacked fighters, who responded by firing at army roadblocks and buildings housing security police and  militiamen, they said.

"The army bombardment started around dawn and after that exchanges of fire occurred. We have been hearing of a military build-up around Deraa for two weeks," Hussam Izzedine, a member of the Syrian human rights organisation Swasiah, told Reuters from Deraa.

"Deraa has been regaining its role in the uprising.Demonstrations have resumed and the Free Syrian Army has been providing security for protests in some parts of the city." [Reuters]