Syrian troops bombard rebel posts around capital

Wed Feb 13, 2013 3:19pm EST
 

By Khaled Yacoub Oweis

AMMAN (Reuters) - President Bashar al-Assad's forces bombarded the southeast of Damascus with air strikes and artillery on Wednesday to try and dislodge rebel fighters who have gained a foothold in the Syrian capital, opposition activists said.

A Middle East diplomat following the military situation described battles in and around Damascus as a "major engagement", with fighting going back and forth between the two sides.

"The opposition is hitting Damascus from a multiple of directions and the regime is trying to stop it," he said.

Jets bombed Jobar, a neighborhood adjacent to the main Abbasid Square, and the suburb of Daraya on the highway to Jordan to the south, sources in the capital said.

The two areas are part of interconnected Sunni Muslim districts in and around Damascus that have been at the forefront of the 22-month uprising against four decades of family rule by Assad and his father.

Rebels entered Jobar last week after breaching the army's defense lines at the ring road and overrunning several army and pro-Assad militia positions in the district.

The road, a supply line for elite army units dug in in the center of the city, separates the capital from the mostly rebel-held expanse of Sunni towns and suburbs known as eastern Ghouta.

"By being all over Jobar, the rebels are at striking distance in Damascus, but the big question is whether they will be able to hold it," said an opposition activist from the Damascus Media Centre opposition monitoring group,   Continued...

 
A Free Syrian Army fighter aims his weapon to target a regime helicopter in the Aleppo district of Salaheddine February 12, 2013. REUTERS/Aref Hretani