Major Clashes Reported in Damascus after Anti-government Rebels Infiltrate Tunnels


22 March, 2017

The assault began early on Sunday with auto bombs and suicide attacks.

Army units were able to regain on Sunday, the areas captured by the rebels in their push, a source from the Syrian military told Reuters Monday. The regime responded with intense bombardment of rebel-held areas.

The Observatory said the rebel assault sought to relieve allied fighters in the nearby districts of Barzeh, Tishreen and Qabun.

The military deployed tanks along the city's leafy Fares al-Khoury Avenue leading to the eastern Jobar and Qaboun neighborhoods, where opposition forces have been pinned for years, and the cracks of gunfire could be heard from Abbassin Square.

There was no immediate comment from the Syrian army, which said on Monday it had recaptured all the areas in northeastern Damascus lost after a surprise rebel assault on Sunday in the strategic entrance to the heart of the capital.

Mohammed Alloush, the rebels' chief negotiator with the government at technical talks in Astana, Kazakhstan, said his group, the Islam Army, was prepared to send further reinforcements to the Qaboun front in Damascus. "Our gains today will give strength to our presence in Geneva after tomorrow", he added.

On Wednesday, suicide bombings struck a courthouse and restaurant in Damascus, killing more than two dozen people and injuring others, Syrian state news said.

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The war saw a turning point when Russian Federation intervened in September 2015 in support of the regime, allowing pro-government forces to regain significant territory they had lost to the rebels.

Meanwhile, a senior army officer yesterday said that Israel had fired its Arrow missile at a Syrian rocket which posed a "ballistic threat" during clashes over the weekend.

State television played what it said was footage taken on Tuesday morning on Faris al-Khouri street, which runs toward the Abbasiyin garages, and showed thick dark smoke rising in the distance.

Lina Khatib, the head of the Middle East and North Africa program at Chatham House said this is the first attack in Damascus of its kind by rebel groups that, until now, had been operating mainly in northern Syria.

Members from Ahrar al-Sham, the recently formed jihadi umbrella group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, and Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (JFS) were reportedly among the opposition fighters.

The source said that the situation in Jobar region has now normalized.

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