AMMAN - Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces fought back on Friday in an effort to retake sections of the Damascus ring road from rebels trying to tighten their noose around the capital, opposition activists said.
Rebel fighters based in the eastern Ghouta region broke through defensive lines two days ago, capturing parts of the road and entering the neighborhood of Jobar, 2 km (a mile) from main security installations in the heart of the city.
Assad, battling to crush a 22-month-old revolt in which 60,000 have died, has lost control of large parts of the country but his forces, backed by air power, have so far kept rebels away from the center of Damascus.
World powers fear the finely-balanced conflict - the longest and deadliest of the uprisings that spread through the Arab world two years ago - could envelop Syria's neighbors, further destabilizing an explosive region.
Heavy fighting was reported at the Hermalleh junction on the ring road just south of Jobar, which had been taken over by the rebels. Fighter jets fired rockets around Jobar, Qaboun and Barzeh districts, the sources said.