Syria Jets, Troops Wage Offensive on Rebels near Damascus

Syrian regime warplanes and troops on Friday blasted away at rebels close to Damascus, the day after a car bomb in a mainly Alawite northern district of the capital killed at least 11 people, a watchdog said.

Fighter-bombers were hitting Duma, northeast of Damascus, and army artillery was shelling the southwestern Daraya neighborhood which the rebels have led against regime assaults for weeks, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Troop reinforcements were being sent to Daraya, the British-based group added.

On Wednesday, the United Nations said the overall death toll from the 21-month conflict had topped 60,000. The fatality rate has multiplied in recent months, as air strikes have stepped up.

Nationwide on Thursday at least 191 people died, including 99 civilians, according to the Observatory, which gathers information from a network of medics and activists. Fighting in Damascus and its outskirts accounted for 87 of the deaths, it said.

Daraya has become one of the bloodiest battlefields in Syria's civil war. In August, the district was the scene of the worst massacre of the conflict when more than 500 people were reportedly killed.

Al-Watan, a pro-regime newspaper, claimed on Friday that the army had "won the battle against the terrorists in Daraya and destroyed their last positions".

It said that several members of the jihadist Al-Nusra Front rebel group had been killed, wounded or surrendered and that Daraya should be fully secured later Friday.

As with many of the claimed victories put out by the regime or the rebels, there was no of verifying the situation. Many of the supposed triumphs have later turned out to be empty boasts.

President Bashar Assad's regime routinely describes the insurgents as "terrorists", claiming many are foreign and backed by money and arms from Gulf Arab states and the West.

The rebels acknowledge a minority of foreign fighters in their ranks, but say their struggle is one of Syrians for a Syria free of Assad. They reject any negotiations as long as Assad remains in power.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that, of the 51 rebels killed on Thursday, at least five were foreigners -- one Palestinian, one Turk, one Saudi and two Libyans.

Source: Agence France Presse

Copyright © 2012 All Rights Reserved.