BEIRUT: Syrian rebels battled jihadists from the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) near Damascus Monday, pressing their bid to expel them from their strongholds, an activist group said.
Rebels holding positions in southern Damascus and the outskirts of the capital and seeking President Bashar Assad's ouster, launched an offensive some three weeks ago to expel ISIS.
ISIS was initially welcomed by some rebels as a potential ally in the armed revolt, but the opposition, including Islamists, has turned against it.
ISIS fighters have in recent days been expelled from the towns of Mesraba and Maydaa, in the Eastern Ghouta area east of Damascus.
They have also been forced out of Yalda and Beit Sahem, in the capital, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The expelled jihadists fled to Al-Hajar al-Aswad, Tadamon and Qadam in southern Damascus, "where they have a strong presence," said Observatory director Rami Abdel-Rahman.
Then, at dawn Monday, fighting broke out in the battered neighborhoods of Al-Hajar al-Aswad and Qadam, pitting rebels against jihadists, Abdel-Rahman told AFP.
"The rebels want to expel ISIS from the Damascus area," he added.
"Now, they no longer have any official bases in Eastern Ghouta. But we are chasing the remnants of ISIS... Overall, ISIS no longer has a strong presence in the Damascus area," he told AFP via the Internet.
ISIS controls much of eastern Syria and it has its main stronghold in Raqqa, in the north of the war-torn country.
Rebels seeking Assad's ouster launched a major offensive against ISIS in January, expelling them from Idlib province in the northwest, as well as much of Aleppo.