Fighting rages near Damascus airport

Syrian rebels declare the capital's international airport a legitimate target as clashes continue in suburbs.

    Fighting rages near Damascus airport
    Rebels said they were targeting the airport in an effort to cut military supplies to the government [Reuters]

    Clashes between Syrian government forces and opposition fighters have continued around the capital, as rebels declared Damascus International Airport a "legitimate target".
     
    Activists told Al Jazeera in the early hours of Saturday that fierce fighting raged in the southern Damascus suburbs of Beit Sahem and Akraba near the airport.
     
    Government forces were making advances in Beit Sahem, as military reinforcements were sent to nearby towns.
     
    More clashes were reported in the eastern suburbs of Douma and Harasta.

    "The regime is fortifying near the airport. This is easing pressure on opposition fighters in rest of the areas around Damascus,” an activist in southern Damascus told Al Jazeera.
     
    “This shows that the regime cannot assert control throughout the suburbs and take over major checkpoints,” he said.
     
    Rebels on Friday said they were targeting the airport in an effort to cut military supplies to the government.

    "This would send a very strong political message to the regime. It will be a moral victory, to say the least," a fighter told the Associated Press, giving only his first name, Nour, for security reasons.

    Losing control of the airport would be a major blow to the regime, which has recently lost two air bases near the capital.

    Airport road closed

    Damascus province is now a key battlefield, as regime forces battle to retake control of an 8km belt around the capital.

    The clashes around Damascus, a city of 1.7 million, have already forced the suspension of commercial flights over the past week, although airport officials insisted the facility remained open and was functioning normally on Friday.

    An official said the main road leading to the facility was closed but that people were reaching it through side roads.

    Meanwhile, shelling by government forces was reported in the districts of al-Qaboun and Hajar al-Aswad in southern Damascus and in the nearby towns of Yabroud, Zyabiyyah and Harran al-Awameed.

    Opposition activists said at least 116 people were killed in violence across the country on Friday.

    The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported clashes between the al-Qaeda inspired rebel group Jabhat al-Nousra and Kurdish fighters in the town of Ras al-Ain in north of the country.

    Activists say that more than 40,000 people have been killed in Syria since an uprising against the regime began in March 2011.
     
    The latest reports of violence came as anti-government protesters took to the street across Syria on Friday to reject any future UN deployment of peacekeeping forces in the strife-torn country.

    "No to 'peacekeeping' forces in Syria," was the slogan chosen for weekly protests, according to the Syrian Revolution 2011 Facebook page.

    Last week, international peace envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi said the country "very, very urgently" needed a ceasefire and a large peacekeeping force.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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