Syrian rebels fight to break blockade of Damascus suburbs

By REUTERS
September 24, 2013 15:04

 
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BEIRUT - Syrian insurgents pressed a new assault in the strategic, heavily-defended southwestern suburbs of Damascus on Tuesday, saying they aimed to break an army blockade of rebel-held areas.

Rebels fired mortars at government forces while army shelling hit the suburb of Derayya, the scene of recurrent fighting during the 30-month-old Syrian conflict, activists and rebels said.

Insurgents have dug in around a crescent of suburbs outside the capital for about a year and a half, but President Bashar al-Assad's forces have halted or reversed their advances in several strategic districts that are now effectively blockaded.

Assad's air power and better-equipped ground forces have so far fended off attacks by rebels whose main arms supply routes into the suburbs were severed by the army earlier this year.

Fighting in Damascus subsided when the United States threatened punitive military action against Assad, but picked up after a diplomatic bargain for Syria to give up its chemical weapons averted the immediate threat of a strike.

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