Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 December 2014

160 killed in Syria clashes

Civilians look for undamaged furniture, clothes and food in homes destroyed during clashes in the town of Hejeira near Damascus, Syria (AP)
Civilians look for undamaged furniture, clothes and food in homes destroyed during clashes in the town of Hejeira near Damascus, Syria (AP)

Heavy clashes between Syrian troops and rebels trying to break a government siege in the suburbs of Damascus have killed at least 160 fighters over two days, activists have said.

Forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad have laid siege for months to rebel strongholds in the Ghouta area east of Damascus, preventing food, clean water, medicine and other supplies from entering in a bid to crush resistance.

The tactic, which activists say has led to famine, has helped government troops capture a string of rebel-held areas over the past month on Damascus' doorstep.

The government push around the capital has coincided with gains by Assad's forces around the northern city of Aleppo as well as a new offensive in the rugged Qalamoun region north of Damascus.

The recent victories have shifted the momentum of the conflict in Assad's favour and given the Syrian leader greater leverage in proposed peace talks that the US and Russia are trying to convene to end the civil war.

The intense fighting in the eastern Ghouta area began on Friday when several rebel groups attacked government forces, according to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and an activist based in Qalamoun.

Observatory director Rami Abdurrahman said the rebels were trying to open the road between Ghouta and the outside.

He said more than 160 fighters were killed on Friday and Saturday, including nearly 100 rebels, most of them from al Qaida-linked groups, the Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

Among more than 60 fighters killed on the government side were 20 gunmen from the Iraqi Shiite Abu al-Fadl al-Abbas brigade, he said.

AP

COMMENT RULES: Comments that are judged to be defamatory, abusive or in bad taste are not acceptable and contributors who consistently fall below certain criteria will be permanently blacklisted. The moderator will not enter into debate with individual contributors and the moderator’s decision is final. It is Belfast Telegraph policy to close comments on court cases, tribunals and active legal investigations. We may also close comments on articles which are being targeted for abuse. Problems with commenting? customercare@belfasttelegraph.co.uk

Latest News

Latest Sport

Latest Showbiz