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Syria - Mar 21, 2012 - 09:32

Last modified: 21 Mar 2012 06:32

Syrian government forces have launched military assaults in different parts of the country, activists said, as Russia said Damascus was making "a lot of mistakes" in handling the unrest sweeping the country. 

Opposition activists on Wednesday said two large suburbs of Damascus have come under heavy tank bombardment following renewed attacks by opposition fighters on forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad. 

Artillery and anti-aircraft gun barrages hit the suburbs of Harasta and Irbin, retaken from rebels by Assad's forces two months ago, and army helicopters were heard flying over the area, on the eastern edge of the capital, the activists said. 

Elsewhere, opposition fighters were forced to flee the eastern Syrian city of Deir al-Zor in the face of a fierce army assault.
"Tanks entered residential neighbourhoods, especially in southeastern areas of Deir al-Zor. The Free Syrian Army pulled out to avoid a civilian massacre," a statement by the Deir al-Zor Revolution Committees Union said on Tuesday.
Activist Osama Mansour said the fighters lacked guns and ammunition.
"They knew they could not hold control of the neighborhoods, so they decided to stop fighting, knowing that the regime would bring in heavy weapons and kill many civilians,'' Mansour said.
The lightly-armed Free Syrian Army has been forced into retreat across the country in recent weeks, with the army using heavy armour to chase them from towns and cities.

Read our news story for more detail and context: Syrian forces assault opposition strongholds 

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