Assad's forces push to retake Damascus suburb

AMMAN Mon Dec 31, 2012 6:51am EST

1 of 5. A view of buildings damaged by what activists said were missiles fired by a Syrian Air Force fighter jet loyal to President Bashar al-Assad in Daraya, near Damascus, December 29, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Kenan Al-Derani/Shaam News Network/Handout

Related Topics

AMMAN (Reuters) - Heavy fighting raged on the outskirts of Damascus on Monday as elite troops backed by tanks tried to recapture a strategic suburb from rebels in one of the largest military operations in that district in months, opposition activists said.

Five people, including one child, died from army rocket fire that hit Daraya, the activists said. Daraya is one of a series of interconnected Sunni Muslim suburbs that ring Syria's capital and have been at the forefront of the 21-month-old revolt against President Bashar al-Assad.

"This is the biggest attack on Daraya in two months. An armored column is trying to advance but it being held (back) by the Free Syrian Army," said Abu Kinan, an opposition activist in the area, referring to a rebel group.

He said that tens of thousands of civilians had fled Daraya during weeks of government assault but that 5,000 remained, along with hundreds of rebels. Daraya is located near the main southern highway leading to the Jordanian border 85 kms (50 miles) to the south.

Activists said the military is trying to push back rebels who have been slowly advancing from the outskirts of Damascus to within striking distance of central districts inhabited by Assad's Alawite minority sect.

Assad's forces have mostly relied on aerial and artillery bombardment, rather than infantry. Rebels have been able take several outlying towns and have clashed with government troops near Damascus International Airport, halting flights by foreign airlines.

Another activist in Damascus with connection to rebels, who did not want to be named, said Daraya has been a firing position for rebels using mortars and homemade rockets. From it, they have been able to hit a huge presidential complex located at a hilltop overlooking Damascus and target pro-Assad shabbiha militia in an Alawite enclave nearby known as Mezze 86.

"So far they have missed the palace but they are getting better. I think the regime has realized that it no longer can afford to have such a threat so close by, but it has failed to overrun Daraya before," he said.

(Reporting by Khaled Yacoub Oweis; Editing by Oliver Holmes and Peter Graff)

FILED UNDER:
We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (3)
mountainrose wrote:
I preferred Arab spring

Dec 31, 2012 7:41am EST  --  Report as abuse
milkomeda wrote:
Isn’t the ‘Syrian Army’ and not the Assad’s forces? It’s like referring the U.S Army as ‘Obama’s forces’.

Dec 31, 2012 8:16am EST  --  Report as abuse
kafantaris wrote:
The Iranian regime is having a hard time seeing a world without Assad. The Syrian people themselves are having no such difficulty, and their view is becoming clearer and clearer every day with each bomb that falls.
Iran, therefore, should take a lesson from Syria as the drama unfolding there is but a preview of what is coming to Iran.
Nor will the regime’s usual scapegoating of Israel save the day, for the Information Age has made this handy technique obsolete. Moreover, the internet is now impervious to full censorship.
When the Iranian people have had enough and turn against the regime, the regime will turn on them, just like Assad has — preferring to destroy the country rather than yield power. Such is the way of tyrants, even the theocratic ones.
And when their end comes, few of us will shed any tears — as few of us are saving any tears for Assad now.

Jan 01, 2013 11:36pm EST  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

Full focus