Syrian jets bomb Damascus suburb for second day

Wed Nov 21, 2012 9:07am EST
 

By Khaled Yacoub Oweis

AMMAN (Reuters) - Syrian warplanes bombed a Damascus suburb on Wednesday, opposition activists said, as heavy fighting raged for the second day on the outskirts, challenging President Bashar al-Assad's hold on the capital.

MiG fighter jets hit the suburb of Daraya, a major opposition centre of the 20-month revolt situated amid farmland near the main southern highway, where rebels have been battling elite Republican Guard units.

The pro-government al-Ekhbariya television said the army had begun a campaign to "cleanse" Daraya of what it described as terrorists, and showed troops on the edge of the town, where activists reported 23 people killed in two days.

But rebels and activists suggested that President Bashar al-Assad's forces were finding it harder to dislodge the rebels than when they last entered the suburb in August.

After months of slow progress, the rebels have in the last few weeks captured several army positions on the outskirts of Damascus and outlying regions, including a special forces base near Aleppo, Syria's commercial hub, and an air defense position near the southern gate of the capital, according to activists, video footage and diplomats following the military situation.

Assad's opponents are also gaining some support internationally as a newly formed coalition of opposition and rebel groups seeks recognition as the legitimate voice of the Syrian people, with Britain becoming the ninth country to grant it such status.

NO LONGER A STALEMATE?

Shashank Joshi of the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) in London said the developments of the last few weeks were shifting the balance in favor of the rebels.   Continued...

 
A view of buildings damaged after a Syrian Air Force fighter jet loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad fired missiles in Douma, near Damascus, November 19, 2012. REUTERS/Abed Al-Kareem Muhammad/Shaam News Network/Handout