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Syrian army retakes Damascus areas

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Syrian government forces on Monday regained control of parts of Damascus that were attacked and captured by rebels and militants the previous day, with the two-day fighting leaving dozens dead on both sides, the military and an activist group said, reported USA Today.

The sudden rebel seizure of territory in the Syrian capital — and the manner in which the attack that took place overnight and into Sunday, with rebels sneaking into the city through underground tunnels and using car bombs — reflected the insurgents’ most serious infiltration into Damascus in years.

The Levant Liberation Committee, a coalition of several militant groups led by al-Qaida’s branch in Syria, and the independent Failaq al-Rahman faction spearheaded the blitz that caught the Syrian military off guard.

Insurgent groups have repeatedly over the past years tried to break the defenses of Damascus, President Bashar Assad’s seat of power. Sunday’s incursion, however, was the most serious since 2012, when rebels captured several Damascus neighborhoods before being crushed by government forces.

The rebel gains, though short-lived, came against the backdrop of months of steady losses at the hands of government forces across the country.

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Sunday’s fighting centered on a government-held intersection of two besieged opposition enclaves, the Jobar and Qaboun neighborhoods. The ultraconservative Ahrar al-Sham rebel faction said opposition fighters had “liberated” the area.

Syrian TV on Monday quoted an unnamed military official as saying the army “regained control of all the points that terrorists” had infiltrated on Sunday. It also quoted Russia’s ambassador to Damascus Alexander Kinshchak as saying one of the embassy’s buildings was hit with a shell during the clashes.

The government-controlled Syrian Central Military Media said the Syrian air force carried out more than 25 airstrikes on Jobar and nearby areas.

Lebanon’s Al-Manar TV run by the militant Hezbollah group, which is fighting along Assad’s forces, reported that members of the elite Republican Guards took part in a counteroffensive against insurgents. The TV reported live from Jobar around noontime Monday as cracks of gunfire and explosions could be heard in the background of the footage.

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.

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Warplanes are still carrying out raids on areas in Jobar and the outskirts of Qaboun area east of the capital Damascus, where the activists of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitored these airplanes carrying out tens of raids targeting sites and areas controlled by the factions, while the violent clashes continue between the regime forces and militiamen loyal to them against the Islamic factions of Rahman Corps, Hayyaat Tahrir al-Sham and the Islamic movement of Ahrar al-Sham after the continued attack since yesterday night Sunday the 19th of March 2017, and intersecting sources confirmed to the Syrian observatory that the regime forces were able to advance west of Jobar and restore points controlled by factions yesterday between Jobar and al-Abbasiyyin, they were also able to restore points and positions in the industrial area located in the north of Jobar neighborhood, which separates between areas controlled by factions in the neighborhoods of Jobar and Qaboun, while other points are controlled by factions in this area as a clash areas.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights learned that the continued violent clashes are associated with heavy shelling by the regime forces on the clash areas and on sites controlled by the factions, where the regime forces launched about 400 artillery and rocket shells on Jobar neighborhood and its surroundings since the start of the attack by Hayyaat Tahrir al-Sham and the Islamic factions dawn of Sunday, in conjunction with carrying out more than 80 raids by warplane on the same areas, also the Syrian Observatory for human rights documented the killing of at least 26 members of the regime forces including 3 officers, while 21 fighters at least of the Islamic factions and Hayyaat Tahrir al-Sham were killed including 2 fighters who detonated themselves in 2 booby trapped vehicles and one of them is of an Arab Gulf nationality, in addition to injuring tens of others, and information about more casualties in the ranks of both parties.

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