Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Escalation in Damascus, Hama Suburbs on Eve of Geneva Talks | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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An opposition fighter from the Failaq al-Rahman brigade fires a heavy machine gun in Jobar, a rebel-held district on the eastern outskirts of the Syrian capital Damascus, on March 19, 2017. (AFP)

Beirut, Moscow – While Syrian delegations are expected to arrive in Geneva starting Wednesday to participate in the fifth round of peace talks called by UN Special envoy Staffan de Mistura for Thursday, several Syrian regions witnessed on Tuesday an immense military escalation.

In addition to the Damascus battles that erupted three days ago, clashes broke out in other Syrian areas.

Faylaq Tahrir al-Sham announced on Tuesday it started a new attack near the city of Hama, admitting it was behind two car bombings near the city of Soran in the northern countryside.

Later, Sham Network reported that members of the brigade, which includes radical groups, were capable of liberating Soran. Less than an hour later, they destroyed regime checkpoints in the town of Maardas, where rebel fighters have entered.

Coincidentally, Tahrir al-Sham said it targeted a meeting of high-ranking regime officials near the city of Qardaha.

In Damascus, AFP quoted Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights as saying: “There was a big blast at dawn, most likely due to a car bomb attack by the rebels against a regime position between the districts of Jobar and Qaboun.”

Meanwhile, Syrian opposition researcher Ahmad Abazid told Asharq Al-Awsat that the battles on Tuesday were launched on two fronts: the first attack was carried out by Faylaq al-Rahman and Ahrar al-Sham in the Qaboun, Jobar and Abassid fronts, and the second was launched by Jaish al-Islam in Douma and Harasta.

Abazid said that although regime forces were capable of seizing positions they had lost during Sunday’s attacks, opposition forces were capable on Tuesday of reoccupying them.

“The fact that opposition rebels had made the initiative to launch an attack in Damascus … is a proof of force, and it would change the political equation in Syria,” he said.

In Moscow, representative of the Democratic Autonomous Administration representative in Russia, Rodi Osman said Syrian Democratic Forces do not intend to enter Raqqa, but would rather lead the battles on the outskirts of the city.

Instead, Osman said the group would transfer the task of entering Raqqa to forces from the Syrian tribes, predicting the recurrence of the same scenario that was implemented during the liberation of Mosul in Iraq.

“For this end, we have been training fighters from the Arab tribes to launch the Raqqa battle. Recently, more than 3,000 fighters have joined from the Shaytat tribes and others,” he said.