Firefighters attempt to extinguish a fire at a factory after what activists say was shelling by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar Al Assad at Al Haidariah area in Aleppo, February 8, 2013. Image Credit: REUTERS

Beirut: Syrian warplanes launched air strikes on the outskirts of Damascus on Saturday, as clashes erupted between loyalist troops and rebels nearby, a watchdog said.

Air raids hit the town of Zamalka to the east, Douma to the northeast, and there were multiple strikes on the Eastern Ghuta region that runs along the eastern belt of the capital, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Warplanes also raided the town of Sabineh just south of Damascus, alongside the highway that leads to Daraa province and the town of Moadamiyet Al Sham to the southwest.

Fierce clashes broke out between rebels and troops in the embattled town of Daraya, as the army shelled insurgent positions there, the Observatory said.

Fighting also raged in the eastern Jobar district, after a heavy explosion was heard overnight in Rokn Eddin in the north, where rebels reportedly attacked an army checkpoint.

Meanwhile, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki said Bashar Al Assad could survive two more years of revolt despite US expectations of a more imminent fall.

Al Maliki, a Shiite, is seen as close to Al Assad’s main ally Iran, but has been careful not to express support for either the Syrian leader, fighting a rebellion since early 2011, or the predominantly Sunni opposition.

In an interview in Cairo with the Saudi-owned, London-based Asharq Al Awsat, Al Maliki said US President Barack Obama, Vice-President Joe Biden and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton had told him Al Assad would fall “within two months”. He did not say when he had spoken to them.

Al Maliki said Al Assad would not fall “even after two years”.

“I know Syria very well,” he said, adding that Al Assad’s minority Alawite sect would fight alongside other minority groups against rebels, which include Sunni Islamist militants.

Meanwhile, Syria’s pro-regime newspaper Al Watan said the army was “determined to crush terrorism around the capital and in big cities”.

Elsewhere on Saturday, a child was killed in shelling on the city of Qusayr in the central province of Homs, which has been under daily bombardment for a year.

In Homs city, where hundreds of civilians have been trapped for months by an army siege against rebel-held districts, troops renewed shelling attacks on those areas, the Britain-based Observatory said.

Clashes also broke out in the eastern city of Deir Al Zor and in the southern province of Daraa.

The Observatory, which gathers its information from a network of medics and activists, reported 136 deaths in Friday’s violence, including 56 civilians and five Kurdish fighters killed fighting against the army in the northern city of Aleppo.