Damascus struck by deadly rocket barrage
Five civilians among victims of attacks following warning by rebel leader, according to Syrian state media.
At least seven people have been killed in rocket attacks in Damascus, with at least 53 rockets fired on several neighbourhoods in the heaviest attack the Syrian capital has witnessed in recent years.
State media confirmed that seven people – five civilians and two soldiers – were killed and dozens were injured in rocket attacks on Sunday.
Some of the prominent neighbourhoods attacked included Malki, where the presidential palace is located; Abou Roumaneh; Mezzeh; and Baramkeh, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The Syrian Observatory, a UK-based activists’ network, confirmed that the rockets had been launched from Eastern Ghouta.
A resident of Abou Roumaneh told Al Jazeera on the condition of anonymity that loud noises were heard on Sunday afternoon.
He said he and his wife were afraid to step outside after receiving several phone calls from friends advising them to stay indoors.
Another resident, also speaking on the condition of anonymity, told Al Jazeera that panic gripped residents of the central districts of Damascus as it seemed that the capital was being bombarded with rockets.
The Islam Army, based in Eastern Ghouta, a neighbourhood outside Damascus, had warned earlier that it would attack Damascus if government forces continued their air strikes on Ghouta.
The Islam Army is the most powerful armed group operating in the suburbs of Damascus.
Zahran Alloush, the leader of the Islam Army, issued the warning via social media on Friday, advising residents of Damascus to stay at home and avoid being on the streets.
He threatened to “shower the capital, hundreds of rockets a day in response to the regime’s barbaric air strikes on Ghouta”.
Helped by its allies, the Islam Army captured an important army base in Sheikh Miskeen town in November.
The base provided supply routes for Syrian government forces from the north to the south.
Besides Ghouta, Syrian government forces have also been shelling the rebel-held town of Douma, which is near to the highway that links Damascus with Homs.
The Syrian Observatory said government air strikes struck Eastern Ghouta on Friday, killing at least 56 people including six children.
In the same area on Monday, at least five people were killed in government air strikes amid clashes between government forces and Islam Army fighters.
Also on Monday, at least 20 people were killed in clashes in Deraa between rebels and government forces, who dropped barrel bombs on the city’s outskirts, reports said.
In Madaya, another neighbourhood just outside Damascus, four people were killed on Sunday by barrel bombs dropped from government helicopters, reports said.