Assad loyalists targeted in Damascus, northern Syria
Gunmen targeted government loyalists in the capital and in the north of Syria over the weekend, in one case killing a family, including children, inside their home in Damascus.
Unidentified gunmen stormed the house, killing five members of a family supporting the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, an opposition-aligned activist group reported.
Five members of one pro-regime family – a man, his wife and their three daughters – were killed [Saturday] by unidentified gunmen in the district of Rukn Al Din” in northern Damascus, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Their fourth child, an 8-year-old boy, survived by hiding in the bathroom, the Britain-based group said.
It added that one of the daughters was a schoolgirl while the other two were university students.
Observatory chief Rami Abdel-Rahman said there were conflicting reports about how the family was killed.
Some sources said they had been shot dead, while others said they had been “slaughtered,” he told AFP.
He also said the family was likely Alawite, because they came from the coastal province of Latakia, a stronghold of the minority community to which belongs the Assad clan.
In Latakia province itself, fighting broke out in the Jabal Akrad mountains overlooking the Mediterranean, the Observatory said Sunday.
At least 30 people were killed in clashes as rebels attacked several Alawite villages Sunday.
Video footage showed fighters identified as members of an Al Qaeda-linked Islamist brigade waving from the roof of an army tower in the village of Barouda, an Alawite village.
The Observatory said 12 rebels and 19 pro-Assad fighters – including soldiers and members of his militia known as the National Defense Army – were killed in Sunday’s fighting in the mountains of east Latakia province.
A source in Latakia said the fighting started at dawn and that the rebels, based in the town of Salma, attacked 10 Alawite villages.
Ambulance sirens, punctuated by the sound of bombardment and government air raids on Salma, could be heard throughout the day, he said.
In separate violence Sunday, a car bomb exploded at a checkpoint manned by regime and pro-regime militia troops near the Sinaa and Bustan Al Dour neighborhoods of Damascus, the Observatory said.
State news agency SANA said a civilian was wounded in the blast which caused material damage and it blamed the explosion on “terrorists” – the regime’s term for rebels.
Regime forces, meanwhile, kept up their shelling campaign against Barzeh in northern Damascus and Jobar in the east, the Observatory said.
The army has tried for months to uproot rebels lodged on the outskirts of Damascus.
The rebels are largely outgunned by Assad’s forces, which have gained ground around the capital and Syria’s third-largest city Homs in recent weeks, with help from Lebanon’s Hezbollah.
But in a blow to the regime’s hold on the capital, rebels Saturday captured an ammunitions depot north of the city from Assad’s forces, activists said, seizing a hoard of anti-tank missiles and rockets which would strengthen their firepower after a string of defeats.
Video footage of the raid showed delighted rebel fighters carrying out boxes of weapons from the arms cache in Denha, near the town of Yabrud, following an overnight attack.
It was a rare battlefield success by the rebels in recent months.
“Our return to Qusayr just got closer,” shouted one fighter, referring to the former rebel stronghold which was captured two months ago by Hezbollah fighters allied to Assad.
Following their victory in Qusayr, southwest of Homs, Assad’s forces took control of several nearby towns and villages, and on July 29 they seized the Homs district of Khaldieh after weeks of urban warfare, tightening their siege on the few remaining rebel bastions in the city.