Syrian troops and rebels open new battlefront near Damascus

AMMAN Wed Mar 13, 2013 5:43pm EDT

1 of 5. A man tries to extinguish a fire following shelling by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, according to the Free Syrian Army, in Jobar area in Damascus March 13, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/ Mohammed Dimashkia

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AMMAN (Reuters) - Heavy fighting erupted in an area between Damascus and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights on Wednesday in what could be a new battlefront between Syrian troops and rebels, opposition sources said.

Rebel fighters attacked an army barracks manned by elite Republican Guards and the Fourth Mechanised Division, headed by President Bashar al-Assad's brother Maher, in Khan Sheih, 6 km (4 miles) from the outskirts of Damascus, civilian activists and an opposition military source said.

Clashes intensified three days after Sunni Muslim rebels overran a missile squadron in the area, killing 30 soldiers, mostly from Assad's minority Alawite sect, the sources said.

The region also hosts a Palestinian refugee camp.

An opposition campaigner in the nearby town of Jedeidet said troops stationed in hills overlooking Khan Sheih were attacking the area with multiple rocket launchers to try to dislodge rebels surrounding the barracks.

"I counted up to 20 explosions a minute on Khan Sheih," the activist, who uses the pseudonym of Abdo, told Reuters by phone.

A rebel commander in contact with the fighters said a force of some 1,000 insurgents had moved into Khan Sheih, which is 25 km from the Golan Heights, captured by Israel in 1967.

He said rebels had also attacked Syrian army positions in the town of Qunaitra, near the ceasefire line with Israel, and further south near the Golan, but those troops were well dug in.

"The aim is to cut supplies to Qunaitra," he said, adding that the Khan Sheih operations were also intended to relieve pressure on the southwestern Damascus suburb of Daraya, where a rebel pocket has been under army siege for two months.

The main front around Damascus has been in eastern suburbs and neighborhoods and suburbs. Assad's forces have made incursions into Daraya on the highway to Jordan, but have not been able to retake it, opposition sources say.

(Editing by Alistair Lyon)

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Comments (4)
BraveNewWrld wrote:
Reuters, when you report on 1000 insurgents attacking the Syrian Arab army – could you please be more specific on who these people are? Are they lead by Al-Nusra and its affiliates, as usual? If so – why you seem to be supportive of their effort? Do you support military actions by terrorist organizations?
On a separate note, your disclaimer “government restricts media access, especially in the rebel-controlled areas” is a masterpiece. If rebels indeed control these areas, how can government restrict access there? The point there perhaps was that most frightening abuses of underage children – using them as human shields, child-soldiers, raping into “holy” underage marriages at 11-12 – occur in those “rebel-controlled” areas, so you needed that disclaimer to cover your back – “we did not see it”?

Mar 13, 2013 10:34am EDT  --  Report as abuse
Doc62 wrote:
As Assad has a tight control of the media and no journalists are allowed, information is sketchy and piecemeal. ie: Maybe only 500 fighters? Maybe from Homs? Maybe from al qaida? With the only good refuge outlet in Jordan, ridding the Heights of Assad is a great idea. His troops, fighting northward, have the Isreal Army sitting on the south hillsides, waiting to pounce. One errant missle landing in Kibbutz Giladi or a stray jet is all will take.
Remember the Six Day War? The IDF took the Golan Heights in an overnite paratrooper drop. Assad’s army ran like chickens on the loose. cluck,cluck,cluck.

Mar 13, 2013 12:04pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Slammy wrote:
@Reuters1945
“Poor Syria- a typical nation in that part of the world”
Within the two plus past years, Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen have all overthrown their dictators. Although life is not perfect in these countries and they still have a lot of work before their governments resemble a western style democracy, the violence in these nations is nowhere near what it is in Syria. Even in Saudi Arabia, one of the most conservative nations in the world, they have relaxed some their oppressive rules and now allow women in their parliament and local elections of Mayors. Which is a good start to bigger, non-violent, reforms in my book. To me, Syria and Bahrain are now the exceptions to the Muslim world, not the norm.
At least the country is not in a civil war. Imagine how bloody a real civil would be given that the current conflict is only by a few armed gangs operating from isolated locations while most Syrians are unaware of the conflict. However, the fact that the Syrian army is having so much trouble with only a few armed gangs makes me wonder how poor they would perform if this were an actual civil war.
Idiots, the Syrian regime and army are made up of total idiots. They could have won and/or avoided this conflict two years ago if they had an ounce of brains between all their generals and leaders. Syria deserves regime change just for the lack of intelligence of its current leadership.
My mamma also told me, stupid is what stupid does and you just cannot fix stupid.

Mar 13, 2013 3:06pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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