SYRIAN Government forces yesterday regained control of parts of Damascus that were attacked and captured by rebels and militants the previous day, with the two-day fighting leaving dozens dead on both sides, the military and an activist group said.
The sudden rebel seizure of territory in the Syrian capital — and the manner in which the attack that took place overnight and into Sunday, with rebels sneaking into the city through underground tunnels and using car bombs — reflected the insurgents’ most serious infiltration into Damascus in years.
The Levant Liberation Committee, a coalition of several militant groups led by al-Qaida’s branch in Syria, and the independent Failaq al-Rahman faction spearheaded the blitz that caught the Syrian military off guard.
Insurgent groups have repeatedly over the past years tried to break the defenses of Damascus, President Bashar Assad’s seat of power. Sunday’s incursion, however, was the most serious since 2012, when rebels captured several Damascus neighborhoods before being crushed by government forces.
The rebel gains, though short-lived, came against the backdrop of months of steady losses at the hands of government forces across the country.
Sunday’s fighting centered on a government-held intersection of two besieged opposition enclaves, the Jobar and Qaboun neighborhoods. The ultraconservative Ahrar al-Sham rebel faction said opposition fighters had “liberated” the area.
Syrian TV yesterday quoted an unnamed military official as saying the army “regained control of all the points that terrorists” had infiltrated Sunday. It also quoted Russia’s ambassador to Damascus Alexander Kinshchak as saying one of the embassy’s buildings was hit with a shell during the clashes.