Beirut,Asharq Al-Awsat—Syrian government forces launched an offensive to recapture the opposition-held district of Jobar, in eastern Damascus, on Tuesday, in an attempt to halt rebel mortar strikes on the capital.
The clashes were “the most violent for many months,” according to Rami Abdulrahman, the head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, and were accompanied by air strikes by the Syrian Air Force.
Abdulrahman told AFP that government troops had forced rebels back to the edges of the district, and that government forces had deployed tanks to areas surrounding the capital’s famous Abbasid Square, in the city center, in order to bombard rebel positions in Jobar.
The Syrian state news agency SANA claimed that rebel mortar fire from Jobar had injured 18 people in Damascus’s central Al-Zabaltani district, which was partially confirmed by the Observatory.
Syrian opposition fighters originally seized part of the district in February 2013 after advancing from Ghouta, a belt of agricultural land south and east of Damascus currently under rebel control, bringing the center of the Syrian capital within mortar range.
Despite a recent lull in fighting in the area, it has periodically been the scene of fierce clashes between government forces and the various opposition groups, with the rebels attempting to drive deeper into the city and government forces attempting to drive them back and lay siege to rebel positions in Ghouta.
Activists also said battles were renewed in the Al-Mleha district, southeast of the city, amid air and artillery bombardment by government forces. The Syrian Air Force also carried out two strikes on the Ghouta towns of Irbin and Hamoryah, killing a man and a child according to activists. Fighting also continued in the Qalamoun district, north of the city.
Meanwhile, clashes in southeastern Damascus continued between opposition fighters and members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), as other rebel groups attempted to expel them from the areas around the capital. Yesterday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said opposition fighters had expelled ISIS from four towns southeast of Damascus.
In the northeast of the country, ISIS militants continued to battle the Kurdish paramilitary People’s Protection Units (YPG) around the town Al-Qahtaniyah, close to the Turkish border.
Al-Qahtaniyah is the front line in the fighting between the two sides, which reportedly erupted following an attack by ISIS on YPG positions by mortars and heavy machine guns. YPG forces have erected barriers on the roads leading to the town.
Elsewhere in Syria, activists said civilian casualties from government airstrikes continue to mount, as government forces kept the pressure on rebel-held territory around the city of Aleppo and elsewhere. On Tuesday, they claimed that three civilians were killed as a result of improvised “barrel bombs” dropped by helicopters on the Al-Sakhour district close to Aleppo, among a number of other air attacks on towns and villages close to the city.