[QODLink]
Middle East

Syrian troops on offensive in two main cities

Clashes rage around Damascus and in Aleppo, as government attempts to retake opposition-held areas.

Last updated: 12 Nov 2013 20:21
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
Assad troops in recent weeks have taken back at least four strongholds in Aleppo and Damascus [Reuters]

Syrian troops have clashed with rebels on the southern outskirts of Damascus and in the northern city of Aleppo, activists said, in a flare-up that is part of a government push to advance and retake opposition-held areas.

In the suburbs of Damascus, Tuesday’s fighting centred around the town of Hejeira, one of a patchwork of sprawling neighbourhoods and towns south of the Syrian capital that have been opposition strongholds for the past year.

Activists said President Bashar al-Assad's troops were backed by Shia fighters from Iraq and the Lebanese armed group Hezbollah.

Emboldened Assad troops have in recent weeks made advances on the battlefield, taking back at least four strongholds in the northern province of Aleppo and south of Damascus.

This week, government forces recaptured the town of Sbeineh, adjacent to Hejeira.

Fighters summoned

In Aleppo city, Syria's former commercial hub, government forces were bent on recapturing districts from opposition brigades, activists said on Tuesday.

They said that rebels saw the threat of Assad wresting back Aleppo as so grave that self-declared Islamist brigades and al-Qaeda-affiliates declared on Monday an emergency and summoned all fighters to head to the fronts.

The joint declaration said government forces - backed by Shia Hezbollah fighters, Iranian Revolutionary Guards and the Iraqi Abu al-Fadl Abbas armed group - had launched "a fierce offensive to reoccupy" Aleppo.

The fighting in Syria has become increasingly sectarian, with mainly Sunni rebels fighting against loyalists of Assad, who belongs to the Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shia Islam. 

Dozens of combatants have been killed in the last few days in embattled northern and eastern areas of Aleppo.

Aleppo has been divided roughly in half by the warring parties for much of the conflict but the government is determined to reassert total control to solidify a foothold in the north where rebel supplies stream in from Turkey.

After 32 months of the conflict, which started after Assad's forces fired on anti-regime demonstrators and escalated into a full-blown civil war, the fighting has settled into a stalemate in which scores of people are killed every day.

More than 120,000 people have been killed, according to the UN and opposition activists, and more than two million people have fled to neighbouring countries.

383

Source:
Agencies
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
Italy struggles to deal with growing flood of migrants willing to risk their lives to reach the nearest European shores.
Israel's Operation Protective Edge is the third major offensive on the Gaza Strip in six years.
Muslims and Arabs in the US say they face discrimination in many areas of life, 13 years after the 9/11 attacks.
At one UN site alone, approximately four children below the age of five are dying each day.
Featured
The new military government has issued warnings that it will soon start to clampdown on immigration offenders.
As Snowden awaits Russian visa renewal, the world mulls role of NSA and expects more revelations from document trove.
A handful of agencies that provide tours to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea say business is growing.
A political power struggle masquerading as religious strife grips Nigeria - with mixed-faith couples paying the price.
The current surge in undocumented child migrants from Central America has galvanized US anti-immigration groups.
join our mailing list