Middle East

Violence flares around Damascus

A woman comforts an injured girl at a clinic, who was injured by what activists said were barrel bombs dropped by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, in Aleppo's al-Sakhour district April 2, 2014. (REUTERS/Hosam Katan)

BEIRUT: Regime forces failed to make progress on the coastal front in Latakia province Wednesday, as stepped-up violence hit Damascus and several suburbs of the capital.

Anti-regime activists in Latakia said rebel groups repulsed an attack by regime troops and paramilitaries on the strategic Observation Post 45, causing an unspecified number of casualties.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which also reported the clashes, said two rebel fighters were killed in the nearby village of Qastal Maaf, while a local commander was killed in fighting elsewhere in northern Latakia province.

The Observatory, a Britain-based activist group, said three regime troops were killed in the clashes.

The Observatory and the activists said regime airstrikes and barrel bombs dropped by helicopter targeted a number of sites in the area, which was seized last month as part of the rebels’ “Anfal” offensive.

The regime was continuing to try to send reinforcements to the area, it added, but rebels attacked a convoy from Idlib province headed toward the coast, inflicting an unspecified number of casualties and disabling a vehicle.

Activists in the coastal town of Banias said that dozens of bodies of regime troops and paramilitaries were bussed to the city of Tartous.

A pro-opposition television station, citing a Free Syrian Army source, reported that 11 members of Hezbollah had been taken prisoner in an ambush staged by rebels in Latakia province, but did not provide evidence for the claim.

In Aleppo, helicopters dropped barrel bombs on several neighborhoods in the city as well as several towns and villages in the province. Five people were killed by the barrel bomb strikes in Aleppo, the Observatory said.

Rebels also caused an unspecified number of regime casualties when they targeted the Nairab military airport, the Observatory said.

In the capital, five people were killed by rebel shelling, according to state news agency SANA.

One of them was a university student killed in the western neighborhood of Mazzeh by a mortar bomb, the Observatory said, while a similar incident, in the northern neighborhood of Faihaa, also killed a civilian.

The capital’s eastern neighborhood of Jobar saw fierce clashes between regime troops and rebels, as did the eastern suburb of Douma, the Observatory said. It said regime troops were killed in the clashes in Douma but did not provide a specific number of fatalities. Shelling by the regime killed five people in the town, it added.

Opposition sources said that rebels detonated two buildings in Jobar in recent days, killing more than a dozen regime troops, in what they claimed was a bid to “avenge” the reported rape and murder of a female detainee by the regime.

The suburb of Mliha, meanwhile, saw eight airstrikes while regime artillery raked the area, killing three civilians, as one regime soldier was reported killed during clashes with rebels, the Observatory said.

Other activists gave much higher estimates of the number of regime casualties in Mliha, which the regime has been keen to retake after it recently slipped from government control.

An unspecified number of civilians were killed in the suburb of Jaramana, it added, as mortar bombs targeted several neighborhoods in the area.

In the mountainous Qalamoun region north of the capital, a dozen regime troops were killed or wounded when rebels ambushed them, the Observatory said. Two rebels were killed in clashes in the area, it added.

A rare rebel attack in Swaida province Tuesday killed a member of the paramilitary National Defense forces, and during his funeral Wednesday, rebel militias fired mortar bombs that killed two people and wounded five others, the Observatory said.

The incident took place in the village of Dama, near the border with Hawran province.

In Deraa, rebels continued to assault the air force intelligence headquarters in the city, causing an unspecified number of casualties. Airstrikes, barrel bombs and artillery targeted several rebel-held villages and towns in the province, killing at least one person.

In Hama province, the Observatory reported that six family members, four of them minors, were killed in an attack by regime paramilitaries in the village of Abu Darda al-Jabal.

Regime artillery continued to target the town of Morek, which lies on the international highway, in a bid to retake it after it was seized by rebels last month.

Fighting between regime troops and rebels in the city of Deir al-Zor claimed an unspecified number of casualties, the Observatory said.

Tuesday’s nationwide death toll reached 222 people, the Observatory said – 142 of them were fighters from the various sides, while 38 were children.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on April 03, 2014, on page 8.




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