Syrian government troops have launched a major attack on rebel-held areas south of the capital Damascus, opposition activists said on Saturday.
“The Syrian troops are trying, under a barrage of heavy shelling, to storm Daraya from various directions,” Haytham al-Abdullah, a Damascus-based activist, told DPA.
Daraya is a poor Sunni Muslim suburb and a stronghold of the hard-line group Al-Nousra Front, which has been blacklisted by the United States as “a terrorist organization.” The head of the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Rami Abdel Rahman, said forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad were eager to tighten their grip on the area.
“Daraya is the closest point to the Mezzeh military airport, which is currently the only facility used by the regime’s officials and troops to move in and out of the capital,” he told DPA.
Rebels have recently been fighting with troops in and around Damascus, raising the possibility that al-Assad could lose his hold on the capital.
Rebels are believed to be controlling several areas near Damascus airport.
News from Syria is difficult to verify, as authorities have barred most foreign media from the country since a pro-democracy uprising started in March last year.
Meanwhile, the ambassadors of Russia, China, Syria and Iran to Lebanon reiterated at a meeting in Beirut that a political solution is the only way to end the 21-month conflict.
“The ongoing fighting in Syria, which targets the regime and is supported by some states, has so far only resulted in further death and destruction, and should stop immediately,” the envoys said, according to a statement issued by the Iranian embassy in Beirut.
The meeting came two days after Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Mikhail Bogdanov, said rebels might eventually defeat al-Assad’s regime. Those remarks were later played down by the Russian Foreign Ministry.
Russia, China and Iran are al-Assad’s main allies.