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Mortar shells strike Damascus, killing at least 10

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 28, 2013 at 2:53 pm •  Published: March 28, 2013

Rebels have established footholds in a number of Damascus suburbs but have only been able to push into limited areas in the south and northeast parts of the capital. The government has retained its grip of downtown Damascus, although the mortar strikes have deepened fear among many residents that they will soon see the violence that has damaged many other Syrian cities.

Thursday was not the first time Syria's universities have been targeted. On Jan. 15, twin blasts hit Aleppo University, killing more than 80 people. The opposition said the regime had bombed the university, while the government accused rebels of striking it with rockets.

Also Thursday, Ghassan Hitto, the newly elected prime minister of the main opposition bloc, said he was reviewing candidates for a planned rebel interim government. It will be a service-oriented administration with nine to 12 ministries and will be based inside Syria, Hitto said during a meeting with Syrian expats in Qatar.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland said the head of the opposition Syrian National Coalition, Mouaz al-Khatib, has decided to continue serving until his six-month term ends in May. Al-Khatib resigned on March 24, citing frustration with the group and its level of international support. The Coalition rejected his resignation.

Syria's conflict threatens to destabilize neighboring countries, where more than 1 million refugees have fled to escape the violence.

In Jordan, on Syria's southern border, a riot broke out Thursday in a refugee camp after Jordanian authorities refused to let buses full of refugees return to Syria because of violence over the border. U.N. refugee liaison Ali Bibi said it was unclear how many refugees were involved in the melee at the Zaatari camp, but no one was injured.

To the north, Turkey denied reports that it was deporting hundreds of Syrian refugees for rioting on Wednesday in a camp in Akcakale after a fire killed a 7-year-old child. A camp official said local authorities identified 300 people involved in the uprising and prepared to deport them, but the government stopped them.

A Foreign Ministry official said 100 refugees asked to leave the camp and return to Syria on their own.

The U.N. refugee agency did not confirm the reports, but said it was concerned about possible deportations of refugees.

In Israel, on Syria's southeastern border, the military said it was beefing up medical teams along the border because of several cases of wounded Syrians crossing the frontier for medical care. Eleven Syrians have been treated in Israeli hospitals, including one who died from his wounds on Wednesday, a military official said. Others returned home after their conditions improved.

All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief reporters.


Associated Press writers Albert Aji in Damascus, Syria; Suzan Fraser in Ankara, Turkey; Bradley Klapper in Washington; Josef Federman in Jerusalem and Dale Gavlak in Amman, Jordan, contributed to this report.