The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says one person has been killed in clashes that erupted at dawn in a Christian neighbourhood in the old city of Damascus.

The report said the fighting between rebels and security forces took place Wednesday morning in Bab Touma, a predominantly Christian neighbourhood on the eastern side of the medieval city centre.

Residents said shots lasted for about half an hour between 3 and 4 a.m.

Violence has been rare in the city’s Christian areas, which have, for the most part, not joined the 17-month rebellion against the regime of Bashar Assad.

Rebels staged a fierce battle for Damascus two weeks ago but were crushed by government forces. Operations to search for neighbourhoods sympathetic to rebels have been ongoing for the past weeks.

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