BEIRUT: Syrian warplanes pounded the rebel Jobar district of the capital Damascus with unprecedented ferocity Tuesday, launching 25 raids, an activist group said.
"It's the largest number of air raids to hit Jobar since the beginning of the army offensive on the district" six days ago, said Rami Abdel-Rahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Jobar is in eastern Damascus and has been in rebel hands for a year.
It is considered a strategic position because it leads onto the adjacent Abbasid Place in central Damascus and also opens onto the key rebel stronghold of Eastern Ghouta in Damascus province.
Government forces have been attacking Jobar since last week, with troops backed by fighters from Lebanon's Shiite Hezbollah movement, a Syrian regime ally.
The offensive is the biggest against Jobar since rebels seized the neighborhood in mid-2013.
The district has largely been emptied of civilians by fighting, but Abdel-Rahman said "dozens of rebels have been killed" in the regime onslaught, although he had no more precise figures.
The attack has used warplanes, as well as artillery and Iranian ground-to-ground missiles.
Regime soldiers and Hezbollah fighters are currently deployed around the outskirts of the neighborhood, but have not managed to enter despite the heavy bombardment, Abdel-Rahman said.
In mid-August, the army seized the Mliha area, 10 kilometers southeast of Damascus, and it is hoping that a capture of Jobar would allow it to launch a double-pronged assault on Eastern Ghouta.
According to the Observatory, at least 180,000 people have been killed since the beginning of the conflict in March 2011.