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Syrian regime and opposition forces battle for control of Damascus

March 21, 2017 at 9:28 pm

Assad regime forces flies over the region after carrying out airstrikes in Damascus, Syria on March 20, 2017. ( Diaa Al Din – Anadolu Agency )

Syrian government jets bombarded opposition-held neighbourhoods of Damascus yesterday in response to a surprise offensive by opposition groups.

Al Jazeera reported that opposition groups allied with former Al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat Fateh Al-Sham attacked government positions in the east of the capital early on Sunday morning but forces loyal to President Bashar Al-Assad drove them back by nightfall.

The new round of clashes between the regime and opposition forces took place in the Jobar district, which has been split between rival forces for more than two years. The area still remains one of the few places in Damascus not under firm regime control.

It was reported that opposition fighters took control of several buildings in Jobar and pushed into nearby Abbasid Square. From there they seized part of a large bus station and fired rockets into multiple neighbourhoods, said Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the London based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group.

Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad

Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad. [File photo]

While violent clashes are ongoing in several places in the Jobar neighbourhood, 50 military personnel are believed to be died in the first 24 hours of clashes.

Abdel Rahman said with Sunday’s attack, “rebels have shifted from a defensive position in Jobar into an offensive one.”

“These are not intermittent clashes – these are ongoing attempts to advance,” he said.

The advance appeared to be aimed at connecting opposition-held territory in Jobar to the Qaboun neighbourhood nearby. By linking the two pockets of opposition control, resistance groups seek to break the siege of Qaboun and cement their hold on an area uncomfortably close to Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s centre of power.

Syrian state TV yesterday quoted Russia’s ambassador to Damascus saying one of the embassy’s buildings was hit with a shell during the clashes.

With the Syrian regime regaining control of major area of the country, Syria analysts believe that government forces will begin to refocus on Damascus with the aim of taking complete control of the capital city.