Assad's forces try to beat back rebels closing on Damascus

Fri Feb 8, 2013 6:31pm EST
 
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By Khaled Yacoub Oweis

AMMAN, Feb 8, Reuters - Syrian government forces battled on Friday to recapture sections of the Damascus ring road from rebels pressing in on the capital, opposition activists said.

War planes fired rockets around Jobar, Qaboun and Barzeh neighborhoods, the sources said. Heavy fighting was taking place at the Hermalleh junction on the ring road just south of Jobar, which had been seized by the rebels.

Rebel fighters based in the eastern Ghouta region broke through government defensive lines on Wednesday, capturing parts of the road and entering Jobar, 2 km (one mile) from security bases in the heart of the city.

President Bashar al-Assad, struggling to contain a revolt in which 60,000 people have been killed since March 2011, has lost control of large parts of Syria but his forces, backed by air power, have so far kept rebels away from central Damascus.

Captain Islam Alloush of the Liwa al-Islam rebel unit said his fighters did not plan to stay on the road. Their control of surrounding areas already rendered the road useless as an army supply line.

"They are fighting off the regime forces but they do not intend to stay at Hermalleh if their losses mount. The objective of this operation is a slow advance toward Damascus," he told Reuters.

SNIPERS

Alloush said the rebels had posted snipers in Jobar, where army roadblocks had been overrun or surrounded.   Continued...

 
Smoke rises behind a car decorated with an Islamist flag in the Sheikh Saeed district, near a cement factory in Aleppo, February 7, 2013. REUTERS/Zain Karam