Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 22 October 2014

Rebels battle troops near Damascus

Free Syrian Army fighters fire their weapons during heavy clashes with government forces in Aleppo (AP)
Free Syrian Army fighters fire their weapons during heavy clashes with government forces in Aleppo (AP)

Syrian government troops have battled rebels in several areas outside Damascus while regime warplanes bombed opposition-held areas around the capital, including an airstrike on one village that killed at least seven people, activists said.

Rebels seeking to topple President Bashar Assad have seized areas of territory in northern Syria but have become bogged down in their push for Damascus, where government troops are still firmly in control.

While the opposition fighters have established footholds in suburbs east and south of the capital, Assad's forces have kept them from advancing into the heart of the city and regularly hit them with artillery and airstrikes.

Much of the latest fighting was focused in areas east and south of the city, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, while government jets were bombing rebel areas.

An airstrike on the village of al-Barika, south east of the capital, killed at least seven people, including five members of the same family, the Observatory said. Other activists provided the names of the dead, including the mother and father of the Shehadeh family and three of their children.

A video posted online showed what activists said was the aftermath of an airstrike on the central village of Kafr Aya. The video showed more than 10 wounded people being treated in a field hospital. Some the injured were children and appeared to be unconscious.

The Syrian government does not respond to requests for comment on military actions.

The state news agency said that troops had killed "scores of terrorists" in two rebellious southern suburbs of Damascus. The government considers the rebels and its other internal opponents "terrorists" backed by foreign powers that seek to destroy Syria.

Meanwhile, the Observatory distributed two videos showing a rebel beating a captured government soldier with a rope. The captive had been stripped to his underwear and was forced to raise his arms so he could be beaten on his sides, lifting his feet to receive blows on their soles.

The Observatory's head, Rami Abdul-Rahman, said the videos were from the Jabal al-Zawiya region of Syria's north-western Idlib province, though he did not know which of the area's rebel brigades filmed them.

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