Buildings in Daria near Damascus show damage caused by
missiles fired by a Syrian Air Force fighter jet loyal to
President Bashar al-Assad, activists said. REUTERS/Fadi
Al-Derani/Shaam News Network
Syrian army forces have pounded rebel-held suburbs around
Damascus with fighter jets and rockets, activists say, killing
and wounding dozens in an offensive to push rebels away from
the airport and stop them closing in on the capital.
The army struck hard after a week of rebel advances,
including the capture of two military bases near the capital.
Rebels had been planning to push into central Damascus from
their strongholds on the outskirts and fighting in the past
week has been fierce.
Activists said heavy rocket fire struck towns close to the
Damascus airport highway, where rebels and the army were
locked in three days of clashes. Some described constant
shelling, similar to carpet bombing, in towns like Beit
"It was frightening because it was the first time we heard
continuous shelling. Really powerful explosions, one after
the other, were shaking the area. I could see fire coming up
from the town," said Samir al-Shami, from the opposition's
Syrian Youth Union, speaking by Skype.
"This was the worst day in those people's lives."
In a sign the government had regained some control over the
airport, EgyptAir said it was resuming flights to Damascus
and Aleppo on Monday after a three-day halt in which Damascus
airport was effectively closed due to unrest. The airline's
head said conditions were stable.
No comment was immediately available from Emirates Airline,
which also suspended its flights indefinitely.
The army's assaults appear to have staved off a rebel advance
into central Damascus so far. But neither side has gained
ground in recent days, and fighting continued along the
outskirts of the city despite heavy shelling by Assad's
But rebels said the area around Damascus airport was not
secure, with clashes still erupting along the highway. It is
difficult to verify opposition reports because the government
restricts media access into Syria.
Other activists said the highway was in army hands but the
area was still unstable due to fighting in nearby towns like
Beit Saham, about 1 kilometre away.
"No one controls that road. The army has tanks along the
road, but the whole area is exposed to rebel attacks and they
could fire on it any time," said one, asking not to be
ROCKET ATTACKS AND LEBANESE BORDER CLASH
Rocket attacks on Sunday killed at least 10 in the town of
Deir al-Asafir, 12 km east of Damascus, activists said. Video
published by activists from the town showed at least five
bodies, one of them a young boy and one an elderly man. The
other bodies were wrapped in blood-spattered white sheets.
Syrian security officials and diplomatic sources say the
army's goal is to push rebels back and seal off central
Damascus from the surrounding suburbs where the opposition is
Rebels say they want to control the airport because the army
has used it to bring in weapons. Western intelligence reports
earlier this year said that Iran, Assad's main backer, had
been using civilian aircraft to fly military equipment and
personnel through Iraqi airspace into Syria.
American officials say the arms flow into Syria has continued
due to Iraqi reluctance to check flights, according to a New
York Times article. It said only two inspections had occurred
since Iraq agreed to a U.S. request in September and that
Iran may have been tipped off about the searches.
Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki told reporters in a press
conference in Baghdad that there was no such request.
"There is no ability to inspect all planes destined to Syria
and there was no U.S. request to inspect all aircrafts
because they know that this is not possible," he said on
Lebanese troops on Sunday clashed with Syrian rebels on the
border between the two countries on Sunday, in what a
security source called the first such fight between Lebanon's
army and the rebels.
The clash occurred when a Lebanese border patrol spotted the
rebel fighters along the border and the rebels opened fire to
prevent the patrol from approaching, a Lebanese military
source said. He said there were no casualties.
In Syria's central city of Homs, a car bomb killed at least
15 people and wounded 24 on Sunday, Syria's state news agency
SANA said. It said the blast in the city's Hamra district
also damaged many nearby residential buildings. The
government and the opposition traded blame for the blast.
There has been a rise in the number of car bombs around the
country. The British-based Observatory, which has a network
of activists across Syria, reported four car bombs on
The group gave a preliminary death toll for Sunday's fighting
of 140, including about 39 in the Damascus suburbs.
Violence has risen in Syria particularly since rebels began
to contest Assad's control around the capital and Syria's
largest city Aleppo, but foreign powers remain deadlocked.
Western countries support the opposition but Russia, Syria's
main arms supplier, and China have blocked three U.N.
Security Council resolutions condemning Assad and reject
Assad, whose family has ruled Syria autocratically for four
decades, says he is fighting off radical Islamist militants
funded by the West and Gulf Arab countries.
State television on Sunday said the army was "eliminating al
Qaeda terrorists" in the rebel stronghold of Daraya.
Rebels said the army entered part of Daraya, a suburb on the
southern outskirts of Damascus where fighters have launched
mortars into the capital. Rebel spokesman Abu Nidal said the
army had entered one side of the town but that rebels were
still in control of the rest of the area and were fighting
The army was firing heavy artillery and rockets into the
town, rebels said.