Syrian army advances as rebels rain down Damascus

13th Oct 2013

DAMASCUS, (Xinhua): The Syrian army on Saturday advanced against the rebels in the countryside of the capital Damascus and pushed its way to the northern city of Aleppo, as the rebels rained down Damascus with mortar shells, local media reported.

In a bid to secure the heart of al-Ghouta, the eastern countryside of Damascus, the Syrian army started an operation in the al-Baharieh town to close in on the rebels and push its way to the town of Nashabieh. Both towns are part of Ghouta, which is overwhelmed by several rebel factions.

The notable progress in Aleppo came after the Syria troops secured an international road that connects the central province of Hama with Aleppo, thus allowing the country’s trade to be revived between northern Syria and the southern part.

Around the highway, the Syrian army also dislodged the rebels from 40 villages, according to the report.

Meanwhile, the army regained the town of Abu Jurain in the countryside of Aleppo on Saturday and besieged the town of Sufaira, a key strategic rebel stronghold. Reports said stripping the rebels of Sufaira would deal a strong blow to the armed opposition, whose several Islamic factions have been entrenched in Aleppo for over a year.

During the recent actions near Aleppo, the Syrian army had dismantled more than 600 anti-tanks mines and 1500 explosive devices, according to the state media.

Reports said the Syrian troops’ push toward Aleppo came apparently as part of a tactic to take advantage of the infighting that has flared between radical Islamist groups affiliated with al- Qaida and the so-called Free Syrian Army (FSA).

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that 50 rebels had been killed over the past three days amid infighting between the two rebel factions.

Meanwhile, the rebels in the hotspots surrounding Damascus fired multiple mortar shells against several districts, killing at least five people, including an eight-year-old girl.

The first three mortars landed respectively at the Shalaan district, Najmeh Square and Abu-Rummaneh areas in the heart of Damascus. Another two shells struck a residential area in the Damascus’ suburb of Jaramana, killing at least four people and injuring many others.

The mortar attacks were part of the endless wave of attacks the rebels have been resorting to in a bid to wobble the government’s grip on the heavily-fortified capital.

The escalating conflicts between the rebels and government troops continue amid international efforts to hold a conference addressing the Syria crisis in Geneva by mid-November.

Clashes and violence continue as international chemical experts conduct their mission in Syria to oversee the destruction of the country’s chemical arsenal.

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