Published: Mon, March 20, 2017
Economy | By Annette Adams

Syrian forces and rebels fight fierce clashes in northeast Damascus

Syrian forces and rebels fight fierce clashes in northeast Damascus

Heavy fighting broke out between Syrian government forces and rebel groups in several districts of the capital Damascus, after rebel fighters detonated two cars in a contested area that killed 20 people, reports and activists said.

Syrian forces loyal to the regime of President Bashar Al-Assad battled opposition groups on the fringes of Damascus earlier today in ongoing battles, after the insurgents against the Assad dictatorship launched an attack from the east of the heavily fortified capital, a monitoring group said. Syrian state media also reported the rebels used tunnels to launch their attack.

State TV reported clashes in the city's Qaboun and Jobar neighborhoods and ordered residents to stay inside.

The attack on Damascus comes just days before a fresh round of UN-brokered peace talks in Geneva aiming to put an end to Syria's six-year war. Clashes erupted between Syrian government forces and opposition fighters in an area outside Damascus, despite a nationwide truce that began at midnight, a monitor said.

Two large vehicle bombs went off about 5:20 a.m., local time, near Jobar.

"This is to relieve the pressure on rebels, with the regime not stopping its bombardment and artillery shelling on our people", Abu Abdo, a commander from rebel group Failaq al Rahman said via internet messaging, adding that the aim was to link up Jobar with Qaboun.

Government forces responded with almost a dozen air strikes on Jobar, he added.

Infantry and tank reinforcements arrived on the government side to repel the attack in the afternoon, the group said.

AFP correspondents in Damascus said the army had closed routes into the strategically important Abbasid Square as explosions reverberated across the city.

The Observatory said rebel shells hit several districts, and government warplanes pounded the Jobar area in response. With Sunday's attack the "rebels have shifted from a defensive position in Jobar into an offensive one", said Abel Rahman.

In recent months, the regime has sought to secure territory around the capital with renewed offensives on besieged rebel towns along with local "reconciliation" deals.

On Sunday, dozens of rebels and civilians who had been bused out of the last opposition-held district of Homs city reached northern Aleppo province.

After a crackdown, the uprising became an all-out war that has drawn in world powers on almost all sides.

Syrian government refers to opposition fighters as "terrorists".

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