Saturday, February 24, 2018

Syrian rebels wage guerrilla war in Damascus against Assad regime

BEIRUT — Rebels pressed their guerrilla fight to topple Syria's regime deeper into the capital on Friday, ambushing troops and attacking police stations in some of the worst violence of the 16-month conflict.

The two-day death toll was more than 470 people, marking some of the deadliest of the uprising.

In Damascus, Syrian forces recaptured one battle-scarred neighborhood.

But rebels said they withdrew to expand their guerrilla war, pointing to the difficulty both sides will have in achieving victory in Damascus, the central bastion of President Bashar Assad's rule.

Assad's national security chief, Gen. Hisham Ikhtiyar, died Friday from wounds sustained in the bombing Wednesday that killed three others, including the defense minister and Assad's brother-in-law. All were key to the government's efforts to stamp out the insurgency.

The fighting has shattered parts of Damascus, with rebels attacking at least two police stations and government troops pounding rebel districts with mortars, machine guns and attack helicopters.

The clashes echoed those seen elsewhere in Syria, with lightly armed, disorganized rebels avoiding direct battles with better-equipped government troops while launching ambushes on their convoys and checkpoints.

More than 170 people were killed across Syria on Friday, including about 50 in Damascus, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, pushing the death toll over the past two days over 470.

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