Rebels and government troops backed by fighters from a Palestinian radical group fought in the Syrian capital Damascus yesterday in some of the most intense fighting in the city in nearly three months, activists said.
In northern Syria, rare fighting broke out between rival rebel groups for control of a border crossing with Turkey, according to an opposition figure.
The fighting in Damascus is some of the worst since July, when rebels took over several neighborhoods in the capital in a striking attack. Within days, a regime counterattack pushed the rebels out of Damascus and recaptured the areas. Shortly after those battles, rebels moved on Syria’s largest city, Aleppo, and it has become a major front in the civil war since then.
The attacks on Syria’s two main cities since summer have demonstrated new organization and capabilities of rebel forces as well as a determination to press their uprising despite the deaths of more than 36,000 people in fighting over the last 19 months.
Rami Abdul-Rahman, who heads the Britain-based activist group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said the fighting in Damascus was concentrated in the southern neighborhood of Tadamon and the outskirts of the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk.
Damascus-based activist Abu Qais al-Shami said that the fighting began on Sunday night and went on continuously into yesterday.
The Observatory and al-Shami said regime forces are backed by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC) led by Ahmed Jibril, a radical Palestinian leader and staunch supporter of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
“Tadamon is being struck with shells, rockets and heavy machine gun fire,” al-Shami said. “People are fleeing the area toward safer areas inside the Yarmouk camp.”
The Observatory had no immediate word on casualties from yesterday’s fighting but said eight people were killed in Yarmouk on Sunday night when several mortar rounds landed in the camp.
When Syria’s unrest began last year, the country’s half-million Palestinians at first struggled to stay on the sidelines. However, in recent months, many Palestinians started supporting the uprising.
The PFLP-GC, however, has remained loyal to al-Assad’s regime.
The popular committees in Yarmouk Camp, which are led by the PFLP-GC and represent camp residents and Palestinian factions, said the camp was attacked by “terrorist gangs” who claim to include anti-government Palestinians.