Syrian troops backed by dozens of tanks and armoured vehicles stormed Damascus' southern district of Tadamon today, in an attempt to wrest back control of the last rebel stronghold in the capital, a witness and activists said.
Activists said most of the district was under the control of government forces by early evening and that government troops had executed at least 12 people. Their reports could not be immediately verified.
"Thousands of soldiers have entered the neighbourhood, they are conducting house to house raids," a resident said.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is trying to crush a 17-month revolt against his rule in which more than 18,000 people have been killed.
Two weeks ago, the fighting reached the streets of Damascus in an operation the rebels called "Damascus volcano". But the Syrian army launched a major counter-offensive, recapturing most districts the rebels had seized including the central Midan area.
The army has been trying to enter Tadamon for more than a week but was held back by fierce resistance from the rebels.
"The helicopters shelled Tadamon overnight until 5:30 (2:30 GMT)," the witness said.