Activists say heavy clashes between Syrian troops and al-Qaida-linked fighters in northern Damascus have killed at least 12 soldiers and pro-government militiamen.

Activists say heavy clashes between Syrian troops and al-Qaida-linked fighters in northern Damascus have killed at least 12 soldiers and pro-government militiamen.

The fighting comes as international weapons inspectors are in Damascus to begin their complex task of overseeing the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons against the backdrop of the civil war.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Wednesday that the 12 died the day before in the city’s Barzeh district.

Clashes in Barzeh flared up on Monday when the army launched a push to dislodge the rebels, including al-Qaida-linked Jabhat al-Nusra fighters, from the district.

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The Observatory says the opposition has been trying to capture the area for months in an attempt to take the battle for the capital closer to President Bashar Assad’s seat of power.