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SYRIAN TROOPS RAID HOUSES IN SUBURB, CLASH WITH DEFECTORS

Associated Press

BEIRUT, Lebanon - Syrian troops stormed a flashpoint suburb of Damascus on Thursday, rounding people up in house-to-house raids and clashing with army defectors, activists said, as the 10-month-old uprising inches ever closer to the capital.

As the fighting raged in Douma, tens of thousands of backers of President Bashar Assad poured into the streets just 10 miles away in downtown Damascus in a show of support for his embattled regime.

Similar pro-regime rallies were held in other cities Thursday as the bloodshed continued elsewhere, a sign of the deep divisions over the country's deadly revolt.

The offensive against Douma came two days after Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said his government will continue with the "security solution" to end the crisis.

It was the latest evidence that the Assad regime was rejecting pressure to stop the bloody crackdown, and the Arab League was powerless to curb it.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 200 people were detained Thursday in Douma.

"They are entering homes, searching cars and stopping people in the streets to check identity cards," said activist Mohammed al-Saeed, a Douma resident. "There is very little movement in the streets, and nobody is allowed to leave or enter Douma."

The Syrian uprising began last March with largely peaceful anti-government protests, but it has grown increasingly militarized in recent months as frustrated regime opponents and army defectors arm themselves and fight back against government forces.

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