Tue, Mar 21, 2017 - Page 6 News List

Intense air strikes pound eastern Damascus

AFP, BEIRUT

An opposition fighter from the Failaq al-Rahman brigade on Sunday fires a heavy machine gun in Jobar, a rebel-held district on the eastern outskirts of Damascus, Syria.

Photo: AFP

Syrian warplanes yesterday hammered opposition-held neighborhoods of Damascus after government forces pushed back a surprise assault that saw rebels try to fight their way into the city center.

Rebels and allied jihadists, led by former al-Qaeda affiliate Fateh al-Sham Front, launched an attack early on Sunday on government positions in east Damascus, initially scoring key gains.

However, forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad drove them back by nightfall and began a fierce bombing campaign yesterday morning.

“There have been intense air strikes since dawn on opposition-held positions in Jobar from which the offensive was launched,” said Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. “The government and allied forces have retaken the initiative and are striking the groups that launched yesterday’s assault.”

He said it was unclear whether regime forces or their Russian allies were carrying out yesterday’s raids on Jobar.

Jobar — which has been a battleground for more than two years — is divided between rebels and allied miliants on one side, and government forces on the other.

On Sunday, opposition fighters seized several buildings in Jobar before advancing into nearby Abbasid Square area — the first time in two years that the opposition had advanced so close to the capital’s center.

The clashes left dead at least 26 government soldiers and 21 rebels and militants, Abdel Rahman said, but he did not have a toll for yesterday morning’s airstrikes.

Sniper fire and airstrikes were heard across the city on Sunday as civilians cowered inside their homes and schools announced they would close because of the violence.

However, by yesterday the front line had been pushed back and correspondents said activity in the typically bustling Abbasid Square was returning to normal levels.

Airplanes could still be heard circling above, but many of the roads that had been sealed off by army troops the previous day were reopened, correspondents said.

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