Syrian army and allies push into southern Damascus: activists

AMMAN Sun Nov 3, 2013 3:11pm EST

1 of 2. A damaged car is pictured after a mortar shell hit a textile factory at al-Dweil'a neighbourhood in Damascus on Sunday November 3, 2013, causing a huge fire in the factory, but no one was hurt, state media said, in this handout released by Syria's national news agency SANA.

Credit: Reuters/SANA/Handout via Reuters

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AMMAN (Reuters) - Syrian army and Shi'ite Muslim fighters attacked Sunni rebel areas in southern Damascus on Sunday in an offensive aimed at breaking resistance to President Bashar al-Assad around the capital, activists said.

Militia from Iran and Iraq and the Lebanese Shi'ite group Hezbollah, who overran two southern suburbs last month, are looking to build up their advances by capturing opposition districts closer to the center of Damascus, the sources said.

Fighters from the al-Qaeda linked al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State for Iraq and the Levant, which is heavily comprised of foreign jihadists, have joined Islamist rebel brigades and Free Syrian Army units in close quarters fighting around the district of Hajar al-Aswad.

Hajar al-Aswad is mainly inhabited by refugees from the Israeli occupied Golan Heights. It is one of a series of Sunni districts on the edge of Damascus at the forefront of the uprising against Assad, who belongs to the Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam that has dominated Syria since the 1960s.

Rami Al-Sayyed, an activist in Hajar al-Aswad, said the bombardment was the heaviest since the uprising erupted in March 2011.

"We are being hit with mortars, tanks, artillery, and rockets. Civilians trying to find a way to flee are not spared. Over the last few days field hospitals took more than 150 wounded, mainly civilians," he said.

Activists said aerial, artillery and rocket barrages on Hajar al-Aswad had killed at least 30 civilians in the last three days. Ten rebels were also killed.

No firm casualty figure was available for their opponents but opposition sources said up to 30 foreign Shi'ite fighters were killed and wounded in an ambush by al-Qaeda linked Islamists last week.


Heavy fighting was reported in the adjacent neighborhood of Sbeineh, situated on the southern highway between Damascus and Deraa, and in the nearby district of Hajeera.

"People continue Hajar al-Aswad as heavy regime bombardment enters its fourth day. Artillery fire on the besieged district has not stopped," a statement by the Syrian Revolution General Commission said.

The statement said a four-year old also died on Sunday from malnutrition brought about by the siege, which has already caused several deaths among children. The deaths could not be independently confirmed.

There was no immediate comment from Syrian authorities. Official media previously said that Assad's forces were fighting al-Qaeda "terrorists" in the area.

A Middle East based diplomat following the fighting said Assad's forces were trying "to bite off slowly" section after section of Hajar al-Aswad and surrounding districts.

"The victims of this kind of warfare are mainly civilians. The militia masses to take a specific area after it has been basically wiped out by bombardment. They rest and then move to the next area," he said.

Video footage activists said were found in mobiles of dead Shi'ite fighters from the Iraqi Abu Fadl al-Abbas unit purportedly showed militiamen with Iraqi accent firing mortar bombs and heavy machine guns in southern Damascus while reciting Shi'ite slogans.

Other footage showed an Iraqi fighter distributing sweets to his comrades in the captured Sunni suburb of Thiabiya during the Eid al-Adha feast last month. The footage could not be independently verified.

The 2-1/2-year-old war has killed more than 100,000 people and forced millions from their homes into refugee camps in neighboring countries.

(Editing by Ralph Boulton)

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Comments (3)
ItsMyOpinion2 wrote:
In the end Damascus will be a heap of ruins as stated in Revelations and Other parts of Scriptures, then Israel will be attacked and things will only get much worse because all will come to pass. I regret the fact that the population of Syria is suffering so badly while the International Community lets this horrible tragedy carry on.They have blood on their hands as well. Assad is getting away with too much and I pray that God in his justice will ouster that madman tyrant and dictator.

Nov 03, 2013 12:51pm EST  --  Report as abuse
Jamesss wrote:
Articles such as this, the substance of which is derived primarily from the mouths of the Islamist opposition, are dreadful, hateful, amateurish propaganda. They are designed to incite sectarian violence – to bolster the flagging manpower of the militants by appealing to the majority Sunni population to rise up against the perception of Shia oppression.

Furthermore, tales of death by starvation, the evidence of which is suspicious in its absence, and the emphasis on child victims in particular originates from the same propaganda handbook that encouraged tales to be written of young children being thrown from incubators during the Gulf war.

It is to the detriment of Reuters’ integrity.

Nov 03, 2013 12:52pm EST  --  Report as abuse
Slammy wrote:
While the Syrian Army pushes into Southern Damascus the rebels push into Northern Homs. The endless game of Whack the Terrorist.

Nov 03, 2013 9:32pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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