Naharnet

Syria Troops Press Assault Southwest of Damascus

Syrian forces assaulted rebel areas southwest of Damascus and insurgents captured large parts of a military school in the north as the nation's conflict entered its 22nd month Saturday, activists said.

Syrian warplanes bombarded the town of Moadamiyat al-Sham, southwest of Damascus, while the army deployed reinforcements and attempted to storm the rebel-held nearly town of Daraya, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

In Daraya, rebels held out against fierce army attempts to break in on several fronts, the Britain-based Observatory said.

"This is the 28th day the criminal (President Bashar Assad's forces have attempted to break into the town," read a statement from activists in Daraya.

Troops tried to storm the town from several directions, but the Daraya Martyrs battalion, a unit of the mainstream rebel Free Syrian Army, has kept them at bay, the activists said.

Daraya "remains isolated from the outside world due to a communications and power cut for the past 37 days. With ongoing fuel cuts, there is an urgent need for supplies to be restored as winter sets in," they said.

Clashes also erupted in the Palestinian camp of Yarmuk in the south of the capital between rebels and troops backed by pro-regime Palestinian fighters, the Observatory reported.

The outskirts of Damascus have been at the heart of fighting this month as the regime launches operations to reclaim territory within eight kilometers (five miles) of the city.

In northern Damascus, the army foiled an attempted car bomb attack, state television said.

"Army forces deactivated a car bomb laden with 1,000 kilograms (2,200 pounds) of explosives in Barzeh," the broadcaster said.

Meanwhile, the rebels came close to scoring a significant victory in the northern province of Aleppo -- a fierce battleground for several months -- as they captured large parts of an infantry academy in Muslimiyeh, north of the embattled city of Aleppo, said Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Observatory.

"Only four or five buildings of the school complex remain in army hands, and the rebels have them besieged," he said.

"This is one of the most important military academies in all of Syria. The rebels are besieging and shelling troops there, mirroring the army's tactics in their bid to control the complex."

The Observatory, citing preliminary reports, said 35 people were killed in violence across Syria on Saturday.

At least 10 of them -- civilians -- were killed when warplanes bombarded the rebel-held town of Rastan in the central province of Homs, it said.

A total of more than 43,000 people have been killed since the uprising against Assad's rule erupted in March 2011, according to the Observatory which relies on a network of activists and medics on the ground.

Source: Agence France Presse


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