Syrian Army Repels Ex-Nusra Front Attacks in Eastern Damascus

23 March, 2017, 01:50 | Author: Essie Rivera

The offensive, one of the most aggressive attacks by rebels on Damascus in years, is an attempt to ease prolonged government sieges around the capital meant to force local opposition fighters to surrender. Tahrir al-Sham and the rival jihadist group, Islamic State, are excluded from the truce.

The latest attacks come just days after a suicide bomber killed 31 people at the main court complex in the city.

"They entered a narrow pocket - the same area of the [previous] breach - and now this group is being dealt with", a source in the Syrian military said, as cited by Reuters.

"The fact that opposition rebels had made the initiative to launch an attack in Damascus ... is a proof of force, and it would change the political equation in Syria", he said.

Government forces have escalated military operations against Eastern Ghouta in recent weeks, seeking to tighten a siege on the area.

Sunday's rebel assault was their most important incursion inside Damascus in years.

An AFP journalist in eastern Damascus reported hearing a large explosion at dawn before clashes broke out.

The official SANA news agency said 12 people were wounded in rebel shelling.

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A Syrian military source said on Monday that the army had recaptured all the positions it had lost on Sunday.

State television played what it said was footage taken on Tuesday morning on Faris al-Khouri street, which runs towards the Abbasiyin garages, and showed thick dark smoke rising in the distance.

But Assad loyalists drove them back by nightfall and unleashed fierce bombing, the Observatory said, before calm was restored on Monday afternoon in eastern Damascus where shops reopened and cars returned to the roads.

The death toll from the fighting on Sunday reached nearly 50 according to the group, with at least 26 regime forces and 21 rebels and jihadists reported dead in clashes.

The Syrian government holds authority over most of the country's population, after an overwhelming Russian intervention in 2015 turned the tide against advancing rebel forces.

"The bombardment is on all fronts. there is no place that has not been hit. the regime has burnt the area by planes and missiles", said Abu Abdo a field commander from Failaq al-Rahman brigade.

Under such agreements, the government agrees to end bombardments and stop besieging towns in exchange for a rebel withdrawal.

Rebel fighters have been granted safe passage to insurgent-held areas of northern Syria under such agreements.

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