BEIRUT, (AFP) — A car bomb hit a security post near Damascus on Tuesday killing two soldiers as fighting raged around the capital and in northern Syria, where at least five people died in an air strike near an olive press, a watchdog said.
“A car bomb exploded at dawn, targeting a military police checkpoint in Jdeidet Artuz,” said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, adding that at least two soldiers died in the blast.
Intense shooting followed the explosion, it said, as army troops were deployed between Kfar Sousa, on the southern belt of the capital, and the small town of Daraya, a few kilometres (miles) to the southwest.
Fighting has raged around Damascus since summer, when the army launched an intensive operation to drive rebels out of their strongholds near the capital, particularly in southern districts.
Insurgents have set up rear bases in areas of Damascus province where anti-regime sentiment runs high and where some of their best-organised and fiercest groups are located.
Battles also raged Tuesday in Moadamiyet al-Sham and nearby Daraya, where a massacre in August killed more than 500 people, according to the Observatory.
In Idlib province in northwestern Syria, an aerial bombardment near an olive press killed at least five people and wounded dozens, the Observatory said.
“We have been able to document the names of five people killed, and 30 injured, including some badly wounded,” Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP, adding that the air strike hit an area some two kilometres (one mile) west of the provincial capital.
In the same province, rebel-held Maaret al-Numan was also bombed from the air as clashes raged at the southern entrance of the town that is strategically located on the Damascus-Aleppo road.
More than 40,000 people have been killed in Syria since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad broke out in March last year, according to the Observatory, which relies on a network of activists, doctors and lawyers for its data.