East Damascus hit by fiercest
clashes in months

Jobar soldier. (AFP/Joseph Eid)

BEIRUT - Eastern Damascus was on Tuesday hit by its fiercest fighting in months between rebels and pro-regime forces, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.


The air force meanwhile pounded rebel areas of the eastern neighborhood of Jobar, as opposition fighters launched mortars into army-held parts of Damascus, wounding 18 people.


"Starting dawn Tuesday, Jobar saw the fiercest fighting in months, coupled with intense aerial bombardment," said Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman.


The air force carried out at least nine strikes on the neighborhood, he said, adding rebels were fighting troops backed by pro-regime paramilitary forces.


Jobar, on the eastern edge of Damascus, is important because it is located at the entrance to the besieged, rebel-held Eastern Ghouta area on the outskirts of the capital.


It also neighbors Abbasiyeen, one Damascus' main squares where the army "deployed tanks... and shelled rebel areas of Jobar," Abdel Rahman told AFP.


Fighting in the area has intensified after a relative lull for months, after rebels launched an offensive and took an army checkpoint in Jobar.


The army has since reclaimed the checkpoint.


Meanwhile, rebel fighters fired mortar rounds at regime-controlled areas of Damascus, wounding 18 people, state news agency SANA reported.


The air force also pounded the nearby rebel-held areas of Irbin and Hammuriyeh, killing a man and a child, said the Observatory.


President Bashar al-Assad's regime has tried for more than a year to crush rebel positions near Damascus, and has deployed troops backed by Lebanon's Shiite Hezbollah to fight in flashpoint areas.


Eastern Ghouta, used as a rear base by rebels, has been under army siege for more than a year, and was the scene of a massive chemical attack in August that killed hundreds.


In recent weeks, rebels in southern Damascus have also been fighting the jihadist Islamic State, after expelling it from four towns in Eastern Ghouta, according to the Observatory.


Syria's war began as a peaceful movement for democratic change, but transformed into a civil war after the Assad regime unleashed a brutal crackdown on dissent.


The conflict has killed more than 170,000 people and forced nearly half the population to flee their homes.

A Syrian army soldiers aims his gun through a hole in a building in Damascus' Jobar area. (AFP/Joseph Eid)

Starting dawn Tuesday, Jobar saw the fiercest fighting in months, coupled with intense aerial bombardment.