Clashes break out in Syrian capital after insurgents launch attack



Associated Press

Fierce clashes broke out in the Syrian capital overnight after insurgents infiltrated government-held parts of the city through tunnels.

FILE - In this April 14, 2016 file photo, a Syrian man carries a carpet through a devastated part of the town of Palmyra as families load their belongings onto buses in the central Homs province in Syria. Syrian media says a pair of attacks on two security locations in the central Syrian city of Homs killed at least 30 people. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar, File)

File picture.

Source: Associated Press

It was a surprising breach of Damascus's security perimeter, where the government has effectively walled itself off against two opposition enclaves in the eastern parts of the city.

Residents said artillery shells and rockets were landing inside the heart of the city, and the activist-run Damascus Today Facebook group reported government air raids over the area of the clashes.

The airstrikes followed synchronised attacks by insurgents who targeted guarded security offices, killing 31 in Homs.
Source: Associated Press

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

With its military depleted from six years of fighting and defections, the Syrian government relies on a blend of official and semi-official forces to defend its territory, including Shiite militias from Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, and other Middle Eastern countries.

The clashes centered on a government-held gap between two besieged opposition enclaves, the Jobar and Qaboun neighbourhoods. The ultraconservative Ahrar al-Sham rebel faction said fighters had "liberated" the area.

Govt forces have been blamed for the strike, which left at least six children dead.
Source: Associated Press

The Levant Liberation Committee — an al-Qaida-linked group — and the independent Failaq al-Rahman faction also participated in the attack.

Syrian state media said the military had repelled an attack by an al-Qaida-linked group after "terrorists" infiltrated through tunnels in the middle of the night.

Rebels detonated two large car bombs at close to the Jobar neighbourhood. The Levant Liberation Committee claimed the attack.

The government has been trying to pressure the rebels to surrender the pockets they hold in Damascus following victories in the northern city of Aleppo, the central city of Homs and other Damascus suburbs.

Tens of thousands of fighters, dissidents, and their family members in long-besieged areas have agreed to be relocated to the rebel-held northwest, in what opposition figures have termed "forced displacement."

Residents of Homs' opposition-held al-Waer neighbourhood began evacuating the city on Saturday after years of siege and bombardment at the hands of pro-government forces.

The evacuations are expected to continue for weeks, until the government will be able to claim control over the entire city for the first time since demonstrations broke out against President Bashar Assad in 2011.

Jobar is one of three pockets in the Syrian capital still in opposition hands. It has been besieged by government forces since 2013.

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