x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Syrian army launches major assault to push rebels out of Damascus

The battle comes in the wake of a Wednesday attack that killed four senior members of the regime, including the national security chief, who succumbed to his wounds earlier today.

BEIRUT // Syrian army forces have launched a general offensive to retake all Damascus neighbourhoods under the control of rebel forces, a source in the Syrian security services said.

The all-out assault comes in the wake of a Wednesday attack that killed four senior members of the regime, including the national security chief, who succumbed to his wounds on Friday.

"The army on Thursday launched a counter-offensive to retake control of areas infiltrated by terrorists to guarantee the security of residents and allow them to return to their homes," the source said.

Syrian state television broadcast footage it said was from Damascus showing weaponry reportedly captured from rebel forces, including material marked "Made in USA," as well as scenes of prisoners seated on the ground, their hands bound.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that regime forces had stormed the Jubar neighbourhood of the city.

"Syrian regular forces, including trucks and cars packed with heavily armed men, stormed the district of Jubar," the Britain-based watchdog said, adding that "searches had begun" in the neighbourhood.

The group reported shelling in the area, as well as injuries, while the Local Coordination Committees activist group said the neighbourhood was being "violently bombarded with heavy artillery and mortar fire."

Fighting was also reported in Kfar Sousa, in the southeast of the city, and Barzeh, in the northeast.

Overnight, clashes erupted in multiple districts of the capital, the Observatory said.

"Fighting broke out in Kfar Sousa, where a taxi driver was killed by gunfire, and Al-Hajar Al-Aswad," the group's chief Rami Abdel Rahman, told AFP.

After Wednesday's deadly bomb attack against members of President Bashar al-Assad's inner circle, a security source warned that the regime would step up its operations against the rebels.

"The army has so far exercised restraint in its operations, but after the attack, it has decided to use all the weapons in its possession to finish the terrorists off," the security source said.