Full force ahead
AMMAN — Troops and tanks swept into a restive town near Damascus today in an assault aimed at crushing opposition to President Bashar al-Assad, whose struggle for survival has dragged Syria into an increasingly bloody war.
Artillery and helicopters attacked the Sunni Muslim town of Daraya for 24 hours, killing 15 people and wounding 150, before soldiers moved in and raided houses, opposition sources said.
There was little resistance as Assad’s forces pushed toward the centre of Daraya, on the southwest edge of Damascus. Armed rebels had apparently already left, activists in Damascus said.
“They are using mortar bombs to clear each sector. Then they enter it, while moving towards the centre,” said Abu Zeid, an activist speaking by phone from an area near Daraya.
Other activists said the army was also bombarding parts of the town from Qasioun, a mountain overlooking Damascus, and from a Republican Guard barracks near a hilltop presidential palace.
“For about an hour we heard explosions and gunfire. It is not as bad as yesterday yet but tensions are really high,” opposition activist Samir al-Shami told Reuters from Damascus.
Assad’s forces also raided the southeastern Kafr Souseh area early today and detained people, another activist said.
The military had driven insurgents from most of the areas they seized in the capital after a bomb killed four top security officials on July 18, but rebels have crept back, regrouping without taking on the army in pitched battles.
Punitive military raids and summary killings appear to be one response as Assad strives to keep control of Damascus and the northern commercial hub of Aleppo, opposition sources say.
YouTube footage showed a funeral in Daraya of a mother and five children from the al-Sheikh family. Activists said the victims were killed by shellfire in the town after fleeing this week’s military offensive on the Damascus suburb of Mouadamiya. (Reuters)