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Syrian rebels say launch new offensive in key Damascus gateway: rebel spokesman

A view shows an empty street near the Abbasiyin area in the east of the capital Damascus, in this handout picture provided by SANA on March 20, 2017, Syria. SANA/Handout via REUTERS


(Reuters) Syrian rebels launched a new offensive in the northeastern edge of Damascus on Tuesday, regaining territory they lost to the army in a weekend assault, and were now storming a major road intersection into the heart of the city, a rebel spokesman said.

“At 5.00 a.m. (0300 GMT) we launched the new offensive and we restored all the points we withdrew from on Monday. We have fire control over the Abassiyin garages and began storming it,” Wael Alwan, the spokesman of the main rebel group that launched the attack, Failaq al Rahman, told Reuters.

There was no immediate comment from the Syrian army, which said on Monday it had recaptured all the areas in northeastern Damascus lost after a surprise rebel assault on Sunday in the strategic entrance to the heart of the capital.

Intense clashes took place in Damascus early on Monday as the army counter-attacked rebels who had advanced in the northeast of the Syrian capital on Sunday, a war monitor said.

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

A Reuters witness said that warplanes were active above Damascus early in the day and that some streets in government-held areas near the fighting had been closed.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based war monitor that collects information from a network of sources across Syria, said heavy fighting continued around the Jobar and al-Qaboun districts in the northeast of the city.

Rebels had attacked in Jobar to relieve military pressure after their recent loss of ground in nearby Qaboun and Barza, a commander from the Failaq al-Rahman group which is fighting there said on Sunday.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his army, along with allied Russian, Iranian and Shi’ite militia forces, have put rebels on the back foot with a steady succession of military victories over the past 18 months, including around Damascus.

Rebels still hold a large, heavily populated enclave in the Eastern Ghouta district of farms and towns to the east of the capital, as well as some Damascus districts in the south, east and northeast of the city.

The most recent fighting has focused on the areas around Qaboun and Barza, which the army has isolated from the rest of the main rebel enclave of Eastern Ghouta and the eastern districts of Damascus.


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