|Syrian troops seize Damascus neighborhood||
DAMASCUS (AP) — Syrian troops regained control of a rebellious neighborhood in Damascus Friday.
Fighting has intensified over the past week as rebels closed in on the capital and launched their most serious blow yet on Assad's inner circle, killing top aides in a bomb blast Wednesday as they attended a security meeting.
National security chief and close Assad adviser, Gen. Hisham Ikhtiyar, died Friday of wounds suffered in the bombing, the fourth member of Assad's inner circle to die in the blast, according to state-run TV.
State-run TV also said Friday that government troops were fully in control of the rebellious Midan neighborhood on the southern edge of Damasacus, where fighting has raged for days.
The fighting in Midan and several other districts has turned parts of Damascus into combat zones and sent thousands of Syrian families packed in cars streaming across the border into neighboring Lebanon.
“Our heroic forces have completely cleansed the Midan area from the terrorist mercenaries,” the TV said, employing the term used by authorities to refer to rebels. It said authorities seized large quantities of weapons including machine guns, explosive belts, rocket-propelled grenades and communications equipment.
Eager to show that authorities were in control, the government took local journalists for a trip to Midan inside two armored personal carriers Friday.
An Associated Press reporter on the trip saw scenes of destruction, including dozens of damaged or charred cars, stores with shattered windows, and the corpses of at least six young men on the street.
Garbage littered the streets, shops were closed and the streets were almost deserted.
Even though Assad's powerful military remains mostly the rebels appeared to be making startling gains in recent weeks.
Besides the fighting in Damascus, about a half-dozen rebels took over a Syrian border crossing near the Iraqi town of Qaim on Thursday, said Iraqi army Brig. General Qassim al-Dulaimi. There are four major border posts with Iraq.
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