BEIRUT - Syrian forces loyal to President Bashar Assad hit rebel-held eastern districts of Damascus on Tuesday with mortar bombs, artillery and air strikes, opposition activists said.
The assault was focused on Zamalka and Irbin, on the edge of the government-controlled center of the capital, according to the pro-opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Rebels in the capital's outskirts say they are facing a slow but steady army advance. A rebel push into the city a year ago was seen at the time as heralding Assad's fall, but his forces, with support from his Shi'ite Muslim allies, have fought back.
If they retake eastern districts of Damascus, mostly Sunni Muslim rebels would lose arms supply routes and suffer a severe blow in their drive to end four decades of Assad family rule.
"The areas of Irbin and Zamalka were exposed to bombings by regular forces, mortar bombs and heavy artillery," the British-based Syrian Observatory said. It said there were reports of casualties from air raids, but gave no details.
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