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Middle East

Rebels intend to continue tit-for-tat shelling of Damascus

Members of the Police Sports Club ride horses carrying flags with images of Hafez al-Assad (R) and his son Bassel, brother of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during a parade, held in conjunction with an Arabian horse festival to celebrate Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's re-election, in Damascus August 6, 2014. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki

DAMASCUS: After a long period of relative calm, Syria’s capital is coming under daily mortar and rocket fire from rebels seeking to make the regime ease its attacks on areas they hold near Damascus.

“It is in response to regime air raids on rebel districts around Damascus,” said Rami Abdel-Rahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based, anti-regime group.

The recent rebel bombardment of the city has caused a total of 31 deaths in recent days, the Observatory said Friday.

One of the groups involved, the Ajnad al-Sham Islamist militia, said it was halting “phase one” of its mortar bomb campaign, but strikes continued to take place, wounding a number of people in the Abbasiyyin district in the eastern part of the capital, and the Ish al-Warwar suburb, where many Alawites live, the Observatory said.

Launched from Eastern Ghouta, a largely agricultural region east of Damascus, where rebels have held off regime efforts to dislodge them, the mortar fire targets several districts, including upmarket Malki, where the presidential palace is located.

“After a long period of calm, mortar fire began on the Saturday after the Eid al-Fitr [holiday],” on Aug. 2, said Abu Hisham, owner of a women’s clothes shop in the Salhieh shopping district in the heart of the city.

“Yesterday and the day before [Tuesday and Wednesday] the noises were new and terrifying. We heard the whistling of the mortar bomb then the explosion.”

Rebel chief Abdel-Rahman al-Shami said the mortar rounds came in response to “an escalation of bombardments” by President Bashar Assad’s forces against opposition strongholds.

“The rebels are trying to aim at military targets in Damascus,” said the Islam Army leader, speaking from Douma, a town northeast of the capital held by the rebels and regularly targeted by regime warplanes.

Assad’s forces have also stepped up bombardments of Kafr, east of Damascus, as well as Mliha and Douma, he said.

Last Sunday, regime warplanes raided Eastern Ghouta, Kafr Batna and Douma, killing at least 64 people at a market, including 11 children, according to the Observatory.

The Army of Islam and another rebel group, Ajnad al-Sham, have been firing 107 mm and 120 mm mortar bombs into Damascus, Shami said.

He said Ajnad al-Sham fighters had been targeting the presidential palace in Malki and military positions. “This will carry on as long as bombardments continue” against rebel areas, Shami said.

A leader of Ajnad al-Sham said on Facebook that the group would attack “the regime’s strongholds in the heart of Damascus every time that surrounded civilians are targeted in Eastern Ghouta.”

In other comments on all4Syria website, he identified three recent targets: the presidential palace, military and security buildings at Kafr Souseh and Mezzeh in the west of the city.

“We said in a statement that civilians should leave,” the Ajnad al-Sham official said.

On Tuesday night, at least 16 people, including two children, were killed and 79 others wounded in rebel bombardments of several Damascus neighborhoods, the Observatory said.

A resident of Qaboun district, near the Jobar front line, said: “Ajnad al-Sham now has Katyusha rockets.” The man, who asked not to be named, said that he had heard a rocket being launched from Jobar Tuesday and that is friend, speaking on the telephone, heard it fall in Malki.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 09, 2014, on page 12.

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Summary

After a long period of relative calm, Syria's capital is coming under daily mortar and rocket fire from rebels seeking to make the regime ease its attacks on areas they hold near Damascus.

The recent rebel bombardment of the city has caused a total of 31 deaths in recent days, the Observatory said Friday.

The Army of Islam and another rebel group, Ajnad al-Sham, have been firing 107 mm and 120 mm mortar bombs into Damascus, Shami said.

On Tuesday night, at least 16 people, including two children, were killed and 79 others wounded in rebel bombardments of several Damascus neighborhoods, the Observatory said.


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