AMMAN - Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces fired rocket barrages on Friday at a Damascus suburb hit by nerve gas last week, in another attempt to capture the strategic town ahead of a possible US strike, opposition activists said.
Elite guard units backed by tanks advanced from two directions on the suburb of Mouadamiya, 8 km (5 miles) west of Damascus along the road to the nearby Israeli Golan Heights, but were met with heavy resistance from two rebel brigades dug in the town, they said.
Four rebel fighters were killed, the opposition sources said. There were no immediate reports of casualties among loyalist forces. Restrictions by Syrian authorities on independent media makes verification difficult.
At least 80 people were killed by a poison gas attack on Mouadamiya on the morning of August 21, an hour after hundreds of people died from a similar attack in eastern neighborhoods of Damascus, according to opposition activists.
Assad has denied using chemical weapons.
His forces have intensified the shelling of Mouadamiya and eastern Damascus neighborhoods since August 21, hoping to drive out rebel brigades, who had encroached on his seat on power in the capital, according to opposition activists.
Mouadamiya borders the Mezze military Airport, a main base for loyalist troops and militia, and the headquarters of the Fourth Mechanised Division, which is headed by Assad's feared brother Maher and comprised mainly of troops from his Alawite minority sect, an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam, that has dominated Syria for since the 1960s.
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