BEIRUT, Lebanon — Heavy clashes between Syrian troops and rebels trying to break a government siege in the suburbs of Damascus have killed at least 160 fighters over two days, activists said Sunday.
Forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad have laid siege for months to rebel strongholds in the Ghouta area east of Damascus, preventing food, clean water, medicine and other supplies from entering in a bid to crush resistance.
The tactic, which activists say has led to famine, has helped government troops capture a string of rebel-held areas over the past month on Damascus' doorstep.
The government push around the capital has coincided with gains by Assad's forces around the northern city of Aleppo as well as a new offensive in the Qalamoun region north of Damascus.
The intense fighting in the eastern Ghouta area began on Friday when several rebel groups attacked government forces, according to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and an activist based in Qalamoun. The activist spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity for fear of government reprisals.
Observatory director Rami Abdurrahman said more than 160 fighters were killed Friday and Saturday, including nearly 100 rebels.