Syrian troops bombard rebel posts around capital

AMMAN Wed Feb 13, 2013 5:53pm IST

A view shows damaged buildings in the Aleppo district of Salaheddine February 12, 2013. REUTERS/Aref Hretani

A view shows damaged buildings in the Aleppo district of Salaheddine February 12, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Aref Hretani

Related Topics

Polluted waters of China

Polluted waters of China

Growing cities, overuse of fertilizers, and factory wastewater have degraded China's water supplies to the extent that half the nation's rivers and lakes are severely polluted.  Slideshow 

AMMAN (Reuters) - President Bashar al-Assad's forces bombarded the southeast of Damascus with air strikes and artillery on Wednesday to try and dislodge rebel fighters who have gained a foothold in the Syrian capital, opposition activists said.

A Middle East diplomat following the military situation described battles in and around Damascus as a "major engagement", with fighting going back and forth between the two sides.

"The opposition is hitting Damascus from a multiple of directions and the regime is trying to stop it," he said.

Jets bombed Jobar, a neighbourhood adjacent to the main Abbasid Square, and the suburb of Daraya on the highway to Jordan to the south, sources in the capital said.

The two areas are part of interconnected Sunni Muslim districts in and around Damascus that have been at the forefront of the 22-month uprising against four decades of family rule by Assad and his father.

Rebels entered Jobar last week after breaching the army's defence lines at the ring road and overrunning several army and pro-Assad militia positions in the district.

The road, a supply line for elite army units dug in the centre of the city, separates the capital from the mostly rebel-held expanse of Sunni towns and suburbs known as eastern Ghouta.

"By being all over Jobar, the rebels are at striking distance in Damascus, but the big question is whether they will be able to hold it," said an opposition activist from the Damascus Media Centre opposition monitoring group,

To the southwest, near the main highway to Jordan, heavy bombardment was reported on the suburb of Daraya, where the army advanced in the last few days, breaking a two-month rebel hold.

The rebels remain entrenched in the south of the district near the main highway leading to Jordan, said Abu Hamza, a member of the Daraya Local Council, which has been administering the suburb since it was taken over by the opposition.

"Daraya is being hit with cluster bombs, vacuum bombs and rockets and we are receiving people for treatment from suffocation in the field hospital,' he said.

"The fighting is fierce on the edge of the town and in the area where regime forces managed to make incursions," he added.

Daraya is part of Muaddamiya, a heavily populated working class Sunni Muslim district, one of multiple Sunni neighbourhoods on the edge of the capital that have been at the forefront of the 22-month uprising.

The ruling elite is dominated by members of Assad's family, belonging to the Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam.

Core Alawite forces from the Republican Guards and the Fourth Division, under the command of Assad's feared brother Maher, have been shelling Sunni areas of the capital and suburbs from the Qasioun Mountain in the centre of the city and surrounding hills and also from the Mezze Military airport located near the highway to Beirut to the west.

The rebel strategy appears to target cutting the troops' supply lines, which pass through the ring road and the suburb of Adra to the north east.

The army and a plethora of security forces remain entrenched in fortress-like bases in Damascus and the provincial capitals, where their advantages in air power and heavy weaponry have kept the opposition from taking over the major cities.

The head of the state arms exporter said on Wednesday Russia is still delivering weapons to Syria and will continue to do so.

The Syrian uprising is the bloodiest of the Arab revolts that toppled four autocrats in Libya, Egypt, Tunis and Yemen. The war has deepened the Middle East's Shi'ite-Sunni divide.

Navi Pillay, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, said on Tuesday the death toll in Syria is likely approaching 70,000 with civilians paying the price for the U.N. Security Council's lack of action to end the war.

(Reporting by Khaled Yacoub Oweis; Editing by Peter Graff)

FILED UNDER:
Comments (0)
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

  • Most Popular
  • Most Shared

WORLD SHOWCASE

Ukraine Crisis

Ukraine Crisis

Obama says strains over Ukraine not leading to new Cold War with Russia.  Full Article 

'National Hero' Dead

'National Hero' Dead

Sierra Leone's top Ebola doctor dies from virus.  Full Article 

Malaysia Tourism

Malaysia Tourism

Malaysia tries to parlay appeal to Muslim visitors into medical tourism push.  Full Article 

Graft Crackdown

Graft Crackdown

Exclusive: China's Xi reached deal with former leaders to investigate ex-security chief - sources.  Full Article 

Cyber Attack

Cyber Attack

Israel's 'Iron Dome' makers were hit by hackers, expert says.  Full Article 

Campus Flooding

Campus Flooding

Massive water main break floods UCLA campus.  Video 

Quality Issues

Quality Issues

In China food testing, safety inspectors are often one step behind.  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device.  Full Coverage