Regime defector expected to outline leadership bid as deadly wave of clashes sweeps Damascus

The most intense clashes seen in Damascus since the start of the Syrian uprising flared on Monday as loyalist units and guerilla forces battled near the city centre.

The ongoing fighting is believed to involve close to 1,000 opposition fighters and regime forces backed by armoured units, including tanks. Residents say fighting is centred in the suburbs of Midan and Zehera, not far from some of the capital’s most secure areas.

There have also been clashes in the Tadamoun and Nahr Aisha neighbourhoods.

Witnesses say key sites, such as ministries and the presidential palace, remain far from the fighting. However, the road to the nearby Damascus international airport was closed for an hour on Monday morning, the first time that has happened since the initial anti-regime demonstrations in March last year.

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