BEIRUT

Middle East

East Damascus hit by fiercest clashes in months

A rebel fighter from the Islamic Front, an umbrella of Islamist rebel groups in Syria, reloads weapons before fighting government forces in the old city of Aleppo July 21, 2014. (AFP Photo/Ahmed Deeb)

BEIRUT: Eastern Damascus was hit Tuesday by its fiercest fighting in months between rebels and pro-regime forces, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The air force meanwhile pounded rebel areas of the eastern neighborhood of Jobar, as opposition fighters launched mortars into army-held parts of Damascus, wounding 18 people.

"Starting dawn Tuesday, Jobar saw the fiercest fighting in months, coupled with intense aerial bombardment," said Observatory director Rami Abdel-Rahman.

The air force carried out at least nine strikes on the neighborhood, he said, adding rebels were fighting troops backed by pro-regime paramilitary forces.

Jobar, on the eastern edge of Damascus, is important because it is located at the entrance to the besieged, rebel-held Eastern Ghouta area on the outskirts of the capital.

It also neighbors Abbasiyeen, one Damascus' main squares where the army "deployed tanks... and shelled rebel areas of Jobar," Abdel-Rahman told AFP.

Fighting in the area has intensified after a relative lull for months, after rebels launched an offensive and took an army checkpoint in Jobar.

The army has since reclaimed the checkpoint.

Meanwhile, rebel fighters fired mortar rounds at regime-controlled areas of Damascus, wounding 18 people, state news agency SANA reported.

The air force also pounded the nearby rebel-held areas of Irbin and Hammuriyeh, killing a man and a child, said the Observatory.

President Bashar Assad's regime has tried for more than a year to crush rebel positions near Damascus, and has deployed troops backed by Lebanon's Shiite Hezbollah to fight in flashpoint areas.

Eastern Ghouta, used as a rear base by rebels, has been under army siege for more than a year, and was the scene of a massive chemical attack in August that killed hundreds.

In recent weeks, rebels in southern Damascus have also been fighting the jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), after expelling it from four towns in Eastern Ghouta, according to the Observatory.

Syria's war began as a peaceful movement for democratic change, but transformed into a civil war after the Assad regime unleashed a brutal crackdown on dissent.

The conflict has killed more than 170,000 people and forced nearly half the population to flee their homes.

 

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Summary

Eastern Damascus was hit Tuesday by its fiercest fighting in months between rebels and pro-regime forces, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The air force meanwhile pounded rebel areas of the eastern neighborhood of Jobar, as opposition fighters launched mortars into army-held parts of Damascus, wounding 18 people.

The air force also pounded the nearby rebel-held areas of Irbin and Hammuriyeh, killing a man and a child, said the Observatory.

Eastern Ghouta, used as a rear base by rebels, has been under army siege for more than a year, and was the scene of a massive chemical attack in August that killed hundreds.


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