NGO: Army Assault on Damascus Province Towns
The Syrian army carried out a major offensive on Qudsaya, west of Damascus, and a neighboring locality on Wednesday and was deploying troops heavily there, a monitoring group and AFP journalists said.
"The army is carrying out a major military operation on the outskirts of Qudsaya and Hameh, shelling the area," said Syrian Observatory for Human Rights director Rami Abdel Rahman, with a large number of arrests taking place.
A Damascus-based activist who identified herself only as Alexia corroborated that, saying "the army is shelling intensely the area of Qudsaya and Hameh."
"The army has attacked the area before, but not as intensely as this time," she told AFP by Internet.
She added that the army had blocked off entrances and exits.
"People are trapped in there," she said. "Many families were prevented from leaving."
Qudsaya and Hameh are home to strong anti-regime sentiment and a large number of rebel Free Syrian Army fighters, and has seen frequent clashes between the army and rebels in recent months.
"There are rebels in most of Damascus province," said Abdel Rahman.
In the neighboring Dumar suburb, AFP journalists and residents saw at least three tanks and seven military trucks on the road, as well as a large number of soldiers.
Commuters making their way to the capital, including families with children on their way to school, were told to turn back.
At least four access points from Dumar to Damascus were blocked, the journalists added.
The offensive was launched a day after the official Al-Baath daily said "the end of security operations throughout Damascus province" was approaching.
The army has waged an intense campaign in recent weeks to try to stamp out rebellion in Damascus province, especially after armed conflict broke out in the capital in mid-summer.