Syrian Troops Retreat From Large Damascus Suburb

Douma is an important strategic point for Assad regime due to proximity to Scud missile base; Revolutionary Guard official says Hezbollah recently sent fighters to prevent the fall of an Iranian base in Syria to opposition forces.

An activist group says Syrian security forces have retreated from the streets of one of biggest suburbs of the capital after intense clashes with anti-government army defectors.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights' head Rami Abdul-Rahman says that as of early Sunday, government troops had pulled back to a provincial headquarters and a security agency building in the Damascus suburb of Douma. He had no information on casualties.

Syria-based activist Mustafa Osso confirmed that security forces had abandoned Douma, but said he had no information about clashes.

Central Damascus has for most of Syria's 10-month uprising been under the tight control of forces loyal to President Bashar Assad, but its suburbs have witnessed intense anti-regime protests.

Douma, about 20 kilometers northeast of Damascus, is an important strategic point for the Assad regime, mainly because of its proximity to Adra, where there is a Scud missile base. In May 2010, the Times of London reported that satellite imagery showed Hezbollah fighters training in the operation of surface-to-surface missiles at a large base near Adra. The photos showed barracks, a large arsenal and a fleet of trucks used to move missiles to Lebanon.

Al-Arabiya television reported on Sunday that, according to a senior Iranian Revolutionary Guard official, Hezbollah forces recently took part in fighting in the Zabadani region on the outskirts of Damascus, after "terrorist elements" attacked a Revolutionary Guard base in Madaya in the Zabadani region. According to the official, the Revolutionary Guard secretly asked Hezbollah to urgently dispatch forces to prevent the fall of an Iranian base on Syrian soil to opposition forces.

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