Monday, January 22, 2018

Rebel area shows limits of rebel push for Damascus

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Twin airstrikes by government jets on a large, rebel-held suburb of Damascus on Thursday sheered the sides off apartment towers and left residents digging through rubble for the dead and wounded.

The bombing of Douma came amid a wave of attacks on rebellious districts of the Syrian capital, part of the government's efforts to keep rebel fighters out of President Bashar Assad's seat of power. Late Thursday, a car bomb exploded at a gas station inside the city itself, killing at least nine people, activists said.

Douma, the largest patch of rebel-held ground near Damascus, illustrates why the opposition's advance on the capital has bogged down. Despite capturing territory and setting up committees to provide basic services, the rebels lack the firepower to challenge Assad's forces and remain helpless before his air force.

That stalemate suggests the war will not end soon. The U.N. said Wednesday that more than 60,000 people have been killed since March 2011 — a figure much higher than previous opposition estimates.

Videos posted online showed residents rushing though a smoke-filled street and loading people wounded in the bombing strike into cars and pickup trucks.

One group provided videos of 12 people they said were killed in the attack. The videos appeared genuine and corresponded to other AP reporting on the strike.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 10 rebel fighters and 32 civilians were killed Thursday in clashes, shelling and airstrikes in the Damascus Countryside province that surrounds the capital, more than anywhere else in Syria.

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