Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat—Fighting between government forces and rebels affiliated with both Al-Qaeda and less radical groups continued in western Syria on Sunday, as US and allied jets continued to strike militant targets in the east of the country.
Syrian government forces reinforced by fighters from the Lebanese Shi’ite group Hezbollah were driven back from areas in Rif Dimashq outside Damascus on Sunday, after an attempt to seize the area from opposition and Islamist forces failed, sources have told Asharq Al-Awsat.
Syrian opposition sources said government forces launched an attack on the Dokhania area northeast of Damascus, “in the morning [on Sunday] with the participation of fighters from Lebanese Hezbollah,” adding that the attack, which aimed to take back the area, was repulsed.
Other sources said the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Al-Nusra Front group had “sent reinforcements to the area,” where it succeeded in driving back government forces, and “launched a counter-attack against them which freed up the forces of the Islamic Front and the Free Syrian Army in the area.”
The source added that Al-Nusra now had at least 100 fighters stationed in the area. Other sources said a unit belonging to Al-Nusra was now stationed in east Ghouta—a belt of agricultural land around the capital—in the Rif Dimashq, and that it included a number of potential suicide bombers.
The opposition Syrian Revolution Coordinators’ Union, meanwhile, denied reports that government forces had taken over Dokhania, saying they had retreated following the fighting.
Opposition and Islamist forces have been stationed in the area of Rif Dimashq since 2012, with constant fighting raging over the strategically important area, which lies just outside Damascus, completely surrounding the capital.
Meanwhile, there were reports of fighting breaking out in other nearby areas between Al-Nusra and fighters from other Islamist groups on one side, and government forces boosted by Hezbollah fighters on the other, near the city of Jobar, the Yarmouk refugee camp, and the city of Al-Zabadani, where sources said barrel bombs were dropped by Syrian fighter jets.