New CIA Director Has Hawkish History on Israel and Iran

Thousands of Palestinian Refugees Flee Syria, as Fighting Rages Near Damascus

UNRWA says at least half of al-Yarmouk's population of 150,000 inhabitants had fled the violence; The international peace envoy for Syria is expected to visit Syria and Lebanon in the coming days.

Fighting was raging Wednesday between Syrian government troops and opposition rebels on the outskirts of the capital Damascus, said activists, amid claims by insurgents they are pushing into the city.

The state-run media confirmed the fighting, but said "the terrorists" - referring to rebels - were being confronted by government troops.

The opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the battles were focusing on the town of Daraya, south of Damascus, and the eastern Ghotta region - both are currently held by rebelsOpposition forces have recently been fighting government troops in and around Damascus, raising the possibility that President Bashar al-Assad could lose his hold on the capital.

News from Syria is hard to verify as authorities have barred most foreign media from the country since an uprising against al-Assad's rule started in March last year.

Meanwhile, the Lebanese-Syrian border witnessed Wednesday a new influx of Palestinian refugees displaced by fighting between rebels and government troops in the refugee camp of al-Yarmouk south of Damascus, said Lebanese sources.

Around 60 Palestinian families have crossed into Lebanon since the early hours of Wednesday, a Lebanese border guard told dpa. The new arrivals will join some 2,000 Palestinians who have entered Lebanon in the past three days, according to estimates by the UN agency for Palestinian refugees and the Lebanese General Security Department.

The international peace envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi is expected to visit Syria and Lebanon in the coming days for talks on the 21-month conflict, said a Lebanese government official on condition of anonymity.Brahimi's agenda in Lebanon will focus on the situation of Palestinian refugees who have escaped to the country from Syria, the official said.

The UN Relief and Works Agency said at least half of al-Yarmouk's registered population of 150,000 inhabitants had fled the violence.