DAMASCUS (AFP) - A Syrian fighter jet hit targets inside Damascus for the first time on Tuesday, a watchdog said, as airstrikes pounded rebel bastions around the country and an air force general was shot dead.

The warplane dropped four bombs on the eastern Damascus neighbourhood of Jobar, near the opposition-held suburb of Zamalka, where rebel fighters were in fierce clashes with regime troops, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. There were no immediate reports of casualties.

Only helicopter gunships had previously been used to strafe areas inside the capital, said the Observatory’s director, Rami Abdel Rahman.

An AFP journalist there said the bombing could be heard across the city.

The strike, and more raids around the country, came as state television reported that a Syrian air force general had been assassinated in Damascus.

“As part of their campaign to target national personalities and scientists, armed terrorist groups assassinated Air Force General Abdullah Mahmud al-Khalidi in the Damascus district of Rukn al-Din,” state television said, using the regime term for armed rebels. It gave no further details. The general was a member of the Syrian Air Force command and was shot dead on Monday evening as he left a friend’s home, a security source in Damascus told AFP on condition of anonymity.

The regime has intensified airstrikes against rebel-held areas in recent days, with more than 60 raids on Monday, the most in a single day so far, the Observatory said.

On Tuesday, airstrikes hit rebel bastions around Damascus including the town of Douma, where the Observatory said large numbers of people were killed or wounded.

The northwestern town of Maaret al-Numan, seized by rebels earlier this month, was also hit, with seven civilians killed including four children, it said. Regime forces have been battling with rebels for weeks for control of the town, which is on a key supply route between Damascus and the northern city of Aleppo. Tuesday also saw clashes between rebels and troops backed by Palestinian fighters at the Yarmuk Palestinian camp, home to 148,500 people, near Damascus. Anwar Raja, spokesman for the pro-regime Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, said its forces clashed for about an hour with rebels trying to infiltrate the camp but that there were no casualties. There are more than 510,000 Palestinian refugees living in Syria, and their leadership is largely supportive of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

At least 36 people, including 22 civilians, were killed in fighting on Tuesday, the Observatory said. With UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi due in China in a bid to revive struggling peace efforts, Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani said the international community’s failure to halt the fighting was making it complicit in the violence. “What is happening in Syria is not a civil war but a war of extermination against the Syrian people,” he told Al-Jazeera television.

The war, he charged, was being waged “with a licence to kill, endorsed firstly by the Syrian government and secondly by the international community.”

On the first day after the Eidul Azha holiday, which saw a ceasefire bid collapse amid renewed clashes, car bombings and airstrikes, the Observatory said more than 500 people had died in fighting over its four days.

 Meanwhile, Turkey is ruling out any dialogue with the Syrian regime, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on Tuesday, a day after Moscow called for negotiations with Damascus as the only way to end the escalating conflict.

“There is no point in engaging in dialogue with a regime that continues to carry out such a massacre against its own people, even during Eidul Azha,” Davutoglu said at a news conference.

Davutoglu said that dialogue with Damascus would be a step that could “be legitimising the existing regime as the violence continues”.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government, one-time ally of President Bashar al-Assad, fell out with Damascus after its deadly crackdown on popular dissent that erupted in March last year.

Turkey has since then sheltered some 108,000 refugees fleeing the conflict, as well as the exiled Syrian opposition’s military and political leaderships.

Ankara had backed Brahimi’s call for a truce during the Muslim holiday that never took hold, with each side accusing the other of violating it.

Davutoglu said the failed truce left Turkey “deeply upset.”

Tehran on Tuesday asked Iraq not to stop and search its Syria-bound aircraft despite US pressure to do so, after Baghdad inspected Iranian planes twice this month.

“The Iraqi government should resist such pressures and do not allow such acts to take place in the future,” said Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast. The Iraqi authorities stopped and searched a Syria-bound cargo plane from Iran for weapons on October 28, after carrying out a similar inspection on October 2.

Both planes were allowed continue their journey on to Syria when their cargo was cleared.

The United States has been pressing Baghdad to ensure all Iranian aircraft flying through its airspace are ordered to land and checked for weapons, but Iraq has said it will only stop planes when it has doubts about the cargo. “In the two cases which our planes were inspected by Iraq it showed that such claims are lies,” Mehmanparast said.