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Infighting in Syria’s Ghouta Threatens further Civilian Displacement - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Beirut – Syrian residents in eastern Ghouta were struck by fear as infighting grew fiercer, giving the regime an advantage for a deeper push into the rebel-held area.

Should regime forces advance, rebel families and civilians will be forcibly driven out of their homes, shops and farms, which was the case for most of capital suburbs.

Lines of contact have shifted in rebel-held territory as infighting became less exclusive to “moderate” rebels fighting extremist opposition groups, but has spread to pit moderate groups against one another.

Formerly, moderate groups would fight against the ex-Qaeda affiliate Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham.

Fierce battles broke out on Sunday in several rebel-held towns as a Syrian rebel group, Jaysh al-Islam, raided positions for Faylaq al-Rahman and Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham, killing and injuring scores.

Reasons behind the conflict remain up for controversy with high-profile sources in the Ghouta region saying that it is “a struggle for power and influence” and “an attempt by Jaysh al-Islam to breakaway from other rebel forces.”

Jaysh al-Islam sources said the battles aim to disband ex-Nusra Front militants and dislodge them from Ghouta.

Battles do not target any moderate rebels, Jaysh al-Islam sources told Asharq Al-Awsat.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed that Jaysh al-Islam was able to advance in the Al-Aftris farms, which were under Faylaq al-Rahman’s control, in eastern Damascus.

Jaysh al-Islam militiamen managed to control Faylaq al-Rahman headquarters located in the outskirts of the city of Saqba and the town of Jisreen.

The Observatory pointed out both warring parties used heavy weapons in the ongoing clashes, marking their third day in a row.

Heavy duty machine guns were used and more than 95 civilians and combatants were reported to have been killed in the fighting.

Some 5,000 residents of the eastern Ghouta took to the streets of Saqba and Hamouriya to protest the infighting but were unable to put an end to them.

Sources confirmed to the Observatory that the demonstration headed towards clash points and when having come at proximity to fighting were put under direct fire, causing the injury of five protesters.