Fighting intensifies around Syrian capital

Activists report regime efforts to crush rebel-held pockets around Damascus, as Kurdish groups advance in north.

Syria fighting
Rebel fighters face push back from the regime after making advances near Damascus last month [File: AFP]

Syrian air and land forces have pressed ahead with an intensified campaign on rebel-held pockets around Damascus, as Kurdish fighters in the country’s north drove home advances against al-Qaeda-linked groups, monitoring agencies report.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based anti-government group, said the air force carried out raids on Sbeineh, south of the capital, on Saturday as government troops shelled the town.

Rebels on the capital’s southern front were battling government troops backed by pro-government militias, it said.

“The strike was part of the regime’s offensive against rebel areas in and around southern Damascus,” Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP news agency.

There has been a marked escalation along Damascus’ southern belt, which has been under a suffocating siege for months, giving rise to widespread malnutrition especially among children.

The regime has for months been trying to secure the capital, which is surrounded by rebel positions.

State news agency SANA, meanwhile, said two people were wounded in shelling by “terrorists” of the Bab Jabieh neighbourhood of central Damascus.

Southeast of Damascus, several mortar rounds smashed into the majority Christian-Druze neighbourhood of Jaramana, wounding nine people, according to SANA.

In rebel-held Yabrud, northeast of the capital, one person was killed and several others were wounded in a car bomb explosion, according to the SOHR.

Kurdish offensive

Meanwhile, Kurdish fighters pressed an advance against the al-Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in the majority Kurdish province of Hasake, according to the Syrian Observatory.

On Saturday, they took over several villages and military positions surrounding Ras al-Ain, which borders Turkey. According to the Observatory, Kurdish militia are now in control of a stretch of 25km along the Syrian-Turkish border, to the west of Ras al-Ain.

The advance comes less than a week after Kurdish fighters took over the Yaarubiyeh border crossing with Iraq.

Elsewhere, in the Christian village of Sadad in central Homs province, rebels fought to seize massive government arms warehouses, and the bodies of six civilians were found in a well, among them two children, said the Observatory.

The latest documented deaths took the total number of dead found in Sadad to 45, including 15 women, since clashes in the area began on October 21, the monitoring group said.

In the northern province of Aleppo, meanwhile, government troops took over the village of Aziziyeh, days after seizing the strategic town of Sfeira from rebel hands, according to the Aleppo Media Centre, a network of anti-government activists.

Source: AFP