Syrian jets bomb Damascus ring road to halt rebel push

Thu Feb 7, 2013 3:52pm EST
 
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By Khaled Yacoub Oweis

AMMAN (Reuters) - Syrian government jets bombarded the Damascus ring road on Thursday in a bid to halt a rebel advance which threatens President Bashar al-Assad's hold on the capital, insurgent commanders and opposition activists said.

Warplanes fired rockets at southern parts of the route where rebels have spent the past 36 hours overrunning army positions and road blocks encircling the heart of the city, the site of key state security and intelligence installations.

Assad, battling to crush a 22-month-old revolt in which 60,000 people have died, has lost control of large parts of the country but his forces, backed by air power, have so far kept rebels away from the centre of Damascus.

World powers fear the conflict - the longest and deadliest of the uprisings that started spreading through the Arab world two years ago - could envelop Syria's neighbors, further destabilizing an already explosive region.

"The regime really wants its positions on the ring road back. It is a major defense line for the capital," Aby Ghazi, a rebel commander based in the eastern suburb of Irbreen told Reuters.

Ghazi said the rebels have reached the edges of the city's main Abbaside Square where the Syrian military had turned a football stadium into barracks.

Authorities have banned most independent media from the country, making it difficult to verify events on the ground.

Units of Assad's elite Republican Guard based on the imposing Qasioun Mountain overlooking the capital fired artillery rounds and rockets at Jobar, an eastern neighborhood bordering the square, and at the ring road, rebel and activist sources said.   Continued...

 
A Free Syrian Army fighter walks in the Haresta neighbourhood of Damascus February 7, 2013. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic