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Senior Syrian air defense force officer killed in Damascus suburb - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Syrians walk past anti-sniper curtains remaining in a street on May 12, 2014 in a destroyed neighborhood of the Old City of Homs (AFP PHOTO/JOSEPH EID)

Syrians walk past anti-sniper curtains remaining in a street on May 12, 2014 in a destroyed neighborhood of the Old City of Homs (AFP PHOTO/JOSEPH EID)

Damascus, Asharq Al-Awsat—The head of the Syrian military’s air defense branch died on Sunday from wounds received the previous day in a battle for the village of Mleiha on the outskirts of Damascus.

The death of the officer, Gen. Hussein Ishaq, was reported by Agence France-Presse and confirmed by both pro-government websites and opposition activists.

According to Rami Abdul Rahman, the head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), a UK-based monitoring organization, Ishaq was injured in the suburb of Mleiha, where the headquarters for Syria’s ground-based air defenses is located.

Fighting in the area has continued with great intensity since government forces launched an offensive a few weeks ago.

Mleiha is one of the opposition’s strongholds in the Rif Dimashq area around the capital. It is on the main road leading to Damascus airport and is part of eastern Ghouta, which has been under siege by government forces for five months.

Government forces recently regained control of a number of strategic positions which were under opposition control in and around the capital.

Elsewhere in Syria, activists from the opposition Local Coordination Committees (LCC) said opposition fighters took control of Tal Malih village in the Hama area following heavy clashes with government forces. The activists said “fighters killed large numbers of President Bashar Al-Assad’s forces,” in the process.

SOHR said 18 members of the pro-government forces were killed, in addition to two opposition fighters in clashes in the area. Abdul Rahman said control of the village had changed hands several times since the start of the conflict.

Associated Press quoted Abdul Rahman as saying opposition control of the village is of concern to the government because it is surrounded by a number of villages with large Christian populations, together with some Alawites, the sect of which Assad is a member.

Fighting also continued within the ranks of government opponents on Sunday, as rebel groups continued to battle militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in north and east Syria. SOHR reported that ISIS fighters had killed 19 other rebels near the town of Al-Rai in the province of Aleppo on Sunday.

In a related issue, opposition sources said residents of the town of Manbaj in the Aleppo suburbs announced a strike on Sunday in protest against ISIS. They said members of the organization opened fire at a demonstration in the town protesting against its arrest of a number of local youths.

An opposition source said: “All shops in Manbaj closed their doors and stopped trading as soon as the residents announced the strike against the practices of ISIS, which controls the town.”

Activists published pictures on social media websites showing empty streets and closed shops in Manbaj.