BEIRUT, July 18 (Reuters) - Syrian forces hit rebel positions across the capital on Wednesday, state media said, shortly after Damascus vowed to punish those responsible for a bomb attack which killed the defence minister and President Bashar al-Assad's brother-in-law.
State news agency SANA said that armed forces had killed a large number of "terrorists" in the central neighbourhood of Midan and clashed in the district of Qaboun.
Activists in neighbourhoods that have seen fighting over the past four days said that government troops and pro-government militias were flooding in to quash rebels.
"There is a very heavy presence of security forces in the streets now," said Susan Ahmad, a resident of Barzeh where rebels have been hiding out. "Apart from Assad's forces, the streets are empty," she added.
State television broadcast footage it said was filmed on Wednesday showing men in blue army fatigues ducking for cover and firing -- the first time official media has shown clashes in the heart of the capital.
In a military statement read out on state television earlier on Wednesday, Syria said it would "chop any hand that harms national security."