Machine guns and explosions were audible as violence overtook a high-security section of Damascus last night, killing at least three and wounding 18 Syrian troops. Locals began hearing gunfire at about midnight and say "intensive gunfire" continued for hours in the Mazzeh district of the Syrian capital, an upscale neighborhood home to several senior regime members. "People came to Mazzeh and they are trying to attack residents. They are calling them names and taking them out of their houses," an opposition activist tells al-Jazeera.
"The clashes were the strongest and the closest to security installations in the capital since the outbreak of the revolt a year ago," a watchdog tells AFP. The fighting follows car bombs in Damascus and Syria's second-biggest city of Aleppo this weekend. Damascus hasn't faced the daily clashes reported in other Syrian cities, the AP notes. An activist said last night's violence was sparked by a Free Syrian Army hit-and-run effort, though state TV said it began with a security raid on an "armed terrorist" hideout. The clashes may have been a rebel attempt to damage security forces' morale after a series of effective attacks on the opposition, the AP suggests.