Assad's forces advance into rebel-held district of Damascus

By REUTERS
July 15, 2013 15:59

 
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AMMAN - Syrian troops backed by tanks and artillery moved into a rebel-held district of Damascus on Monday, stepping up efforts to drive opposition fighters from the capital and build on battlefield gains elsewhere in the country, a rebel commander said.

Opposition sources said troops loyal to President Bashar Assad advanced into the neighborhood of Qaboun after subjecting the Sunni Muslim district to heavy shelling. Two adjacent rebel-held neighborhoods have been under sustained fire in recent weeks to cut off the movement of rebel fighters.

Diplomats and security sources said Assad appeared intent on securing the capital from rebels that pose a threat to his troops, who are dug into positions in the center of the city.

Backed by guerrillas from the Lebanese Shi'ite group Hezbollah, Assad has recaptured important regions in central Syria in the past two months, linking Damascus to his Alawite heartland on the coast. His troops now appear focused on eliminating the rebel threat to the capital.

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