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Rebels take heavy losses, fail to break siege near Damascus

Special to WorldTribune.com

NICOSIA — Sunni rebels have sustained heavy losses in a failed counter-offensive in central Syria.

The opposition said Islamist rebel militias failed in an operation to end a siege by the Syrian Army around Damascus.

A Free Syrian Army fighter holds his weapon as he peeks out from a balcony in the Harasta area in eastern al-Ghouta, near Damascus on Nov. 22.  /Reuters/William Ismail

A Free Syrian Army fighter peeks out from a balcony in the Harasta area in Eastern Ghouta, near Damascus on Nov. 22. /Reuters/William Ismail

Scores of rebels, including commanders, were said to have been killed in two days of intense battles in Eastern Ghouta south of Damascus.

“They are trying to break the siege imposed by the Army on the region,” the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

In a statement on Nov. 24, Syrian Observatory reported the death of 55 rebels, including seven battalion leaders. Most of the casualties stemmed from the Al Qaida-aligned Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and the Nusra Front for the Defense of the Levant.

The rebel offensive began on Nov. 22 when ISIL and Nusra attacked military and police checkpoints around Ghouta. Syrian Observatory said at least 36 Syrian Army soldiers and 20 Iranian-sponsored proxy forces were
also killed. The opposition said Hizbullah was also involved in the battles.

The Syrian Army has expanded control around the southern suburbs of
Damascus, which served as a hub for rebels and supplies from neighboring
Lebanon. Over the last four months, the army was said to have blocked
supplies amid daily shelling of rebel strongholds.

The Western-backed Free Syrian Army has also been struggling amid the
Assad offensive. On Nov. 24, opposition sources reported the disappearance
of FSA commander Col. Riad Assad, based in Turkey. In June 2013, Assad, said
to have planned to establish a splinter militia, survived an assassination
attempt in the Syrian town of Dir Al Zour.

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