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      Syria War Escalates, Army Jets Attack Inside Damascus

      A Syrian fighter jet hits targets inside Damascus for the first time as air strikes pounded rebel bastions around the country.
      By Elad Benari
      First Publish: 10/31/2012, 4:14 AM

      A rebel fighter throws a handmade hand grenade towards pro-Syrian government troops
      A rebel fighter throws a handmade hand grenade towards pro-Syrian government troops
      AFP/Philippe Desmazes

      A Syrian fighter jet hit targets inside Damascus for the first time on Tuesday, a watchdog told AFP, as air strikes pounded rebel bastions around the country and an air force general was shot dead.

      The report said that the jet dropped four bombs on the east Damascus neighborhood of Jobar, near the opposition-held suburb of Zamalka, where rebel fighters were locked in fierce clashes with the army.

      There were no reports of casualties in the bombing run, which AFP correspondents said was heard across the capital.

      Only helicopter gunships have previously been used to strafe areas inside Damascus, Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told AFP.

      The strike, and more raids around the country, came as Syrian rebels claimed to have assassinated an air force general in Damascus.

      State television said the general, Abdullah Mahmud al-Khalidi, was killed in the northern Damascus district of Rukn al-Din, but gave no further details.

      The general was shot dead on Monday evening as he left a friend's home, a security source in Damascus told AFP on condition of anonymity.

      The rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) claimed in an Internet statement it had killed Khalidi, who it said was in charge of training, as well as an air force intelligence specialist.

      The government has intensified air strikes against rebel-held areas in recent days, with more than 60 raids on Monday, the most in a single day so far, the Observatory said.

      On Tuesday, air strikes hit rebel bastions around Damascus including the town of Douma. The Observatory said at least 23 people were killed there, including 18 in jet strikes and bombardment by tanks, and that the toll was expected to rise.

      The northwestern town of Maaret al-Numan, seized by rebels earlier this month, was also hit, with seven civilians killed, including four children, it said.

      At least 123 people, including 57 civilians, 41 soldiers and 25 rebels were killed in fighting on Tuesday, the Observatory said.

      On Monday, a bomb struck the predominantly Christian and Druze area of Jaramana, just outside Damascus, killing 11 people.

      With international envoy Lakhdar Brahimi due in China in a bid to revive peace efforts, Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani, a vocal supporter of arming the rebels, said the international community's failure to halt the fighting was making it complicit in the violence.

      "What is happening in Syria is not a civil war but a war of extermination against the Syrian people," he told Al-Jazeera television.

      The war was being waged "with a license to kill, endorsed firstly by the Syrian government and secondly by the international community," he said.

      A ceasefire called for the Eid al-Adha Muslim holiday collapsed within several hours in the face of renewed clashes, car bombings and air strikes.

      "I have said and it bears repeating again and again that the Syrian crisis is very, very dangerous, the situation is bad and getting worse," Brahimi said on Monday, after talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.