Syrian rebels claim attack

Rebels claim to have led a high-profile attack in Damascus today that killed defense minister

Published July 18, 2012 2:18PM (EDT)

This article originally appeared on GlobalPost.

Syrian rebels today claimed responsibiliy for the deaths of the nation's defense minister, Daoud Rajha, as well as Assef Shawkat, President Bashar al-Assad's brother-in-law, and other top officials, in a Damascus blast earlier described by Syrian state television as a "terrorist bombing," reported Reuters.

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BBC News, citing state television, said the government has already replaced the deceased Rajha with General Fahad Jassim al-Freij, former chief of staff of the armed forces.

The news comes in the fourth day of heavy violence in the capital, which marks a fresh elevation in the over year-long conflict, according to the Associated Press.

Clashes between government forces and rebels have increased dramatically since unrest began there over a year ago. The violence has left over 10,000 people dead.

Separately, at least 600 Syrians escaped to neighboring Turkey overnight Tuesday, reported ABC News.

Activists told AP on Tuesday things are near breaking point with the embattled Syrian regime, referring to the situation in the capital as the "Damascus Volcano." The UN is set to vote on the Syria situation later today.

By Kristin Deasy

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