Published: Tue, March 21, 2017
Worldwide | By Sean Reid

Syrian forces and rebels fight fierce clashes in northeast Damascus

Syrian state television said the army had repelled an infiltration attempts by the militants and bombarded them with artillery, inflicting heavy losses.

ISANA, the Syrian state-run news agency quoted a military source Monday saying the regime has recaptured all positions in the industrial area that armed groups infiltrated on Sunday. "The government and allied forces have retaken the initiative and are striking the groups that launched yesterday's assault".

The Observatory said rebel shells hit several nearby districts in Damascus, including Bab Touma, Rukn al-Din and the Abbasiyin area.

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.

A commander with rebel group Failaq al-Rahman which was involved in the fighting said Sunday, that after their withdrawal from adjacent Qaboun and Barza, the rebel groups attacked Jobar to relieve the pressure. "Rebels want to link their territory in Jobar with Qabun to break the government siege there", Abdel Rahman added.

Control of Jobar - which has been a battleground district for more than two years - is divided between rebels and allied fighters on one side, and government forces on the other.

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Insurgent groups attacked government positions in the area, including with two vehicle bombs, in an attempt to storm their defence lines, the Britain-based Observatory said.

According to the Observatory, the Faylaq al-Rahman group and the Fateh al-Sham Front - known as al-Nusra Front before it broke ties with al-Qaeda - were present in Jobar.

Also Monday, Syrian state TV and the Observatory reported that an airstrike in the country's north - said to be by the US -led coalition, which has been targeting the Islamic State group in Syria for more than two years - had left at least seven people dead, including five members of the same family.

The fighting comes only days before another round of UN-brokered peace talks in Geneva aimed at finding a political solution to Syria's six-year civil war.

The assault was led by Islamist groups including Ahrar al-Sham and the recently formed umbrella jihadist group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham.

"They're spread too thin and this has allowed rebels to advance".

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