Beirut: A barrage of rockets slammed into a contested district on the northeastern edge of Damascus, killing at least five people and trapping others under the rubble, activists said on Friday.

The attack on Barzeh, where rebels aiming to topple President Bashar Al Assad are known to operate, follows days of heavy fighting between the rebels and the military.

Rebels have established footholds in districts on the edge of Damascus and in suburbs in the northeast and south, from where they fire mortars into the heavily guarded city. Despite their efforts, they have been unable to break the Al Assad regime’s tight hold in the capital.

The activists said several rockets exploded in a residential area in Barzeh district on Thursday night and Friday morning. The opposition Barzeh Media Center and a militant website claimed the Syrian military fired 14 rockets, leaving people, including children, buried under the rubble.

It said three children, a woman and an elderly man were killed.

The Britain-based pro-opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed a barrage of shells hit Barzeh, killing several people, but said the nature of the attack and number of casualties was not clear.

Barzeh is close to Esh Al Wirwar, a suburb of Damascus predominantly inhabited by Alawites and Syrian army volunteers. Rebels frequently target the area with mortar shells.

The Syrian revolt started with largely peaceful protests in March 2011 but has developed into a civil war with increasingly sectarian overtones.

Sunni Muslims dominate rebel ranks, while the Al Assad regime is composed mostly of Alawites, an offshoot Shiite group to which the president and his family belong. More than 70,000 people have died in the conflict, according to the UN.