Syrian regime, rebels suffer heavy losses in fierce Damascus clashes
An opposition fighter aims fire as others run for cover while they hold a position behind burning tyres in the Salaheddin district of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on October 9, 2013. (AFP)
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Dozens of Syrian rebels and forces loyal to President Bashar Assad were killed during fierce clashes south of Damascus on Wednesday after the state army launched a major offensive in the area.
The clashes took place between several rebel brigades and regular troops, who were supported by militia and members of the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah, NGO the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported Thursday, according to Agence France Presse.
The Observatory said the fighting occurred in the areas of Husseiniyah, Al Thiyabiyeh and Bouaydah as government warplanes bombed the area.
“At least 22 people, the majority of them rebels, including a commander,” were killed, the Observatory said, without elaborating, AFP reported.
Its report added that “dozens” of regime forces were also killed in the fighting.
Earlier on Wednesday, the British-based Observatory reported that legions of army troops had consolidated their control of two villages separating Thiyabiyeh and Bouaydah near the capital.
According to AFP, the Local Coordination Committees, a grouping of militants on the ground in Syria, reported that the Abu Fadel Abbas Brigade -- composed largely of Iraqi Shiites, Hezbollah fighters and elite troops -- were undertaking a major offensive in the area.
State run news agency SANA circulated reports on Thursday that the Assad's troops had “tightened their control over the town of Husseiniyah and the outskirts of Al Thiyabiyeh,” AFP said.
The towns of Thiyabiyeh and Bouaydah are located near the Shiite pilgrimage site of Sayyida Zeinab in the southern outkirts of Damascus.
Clashes in and around the capital's suburbs have been reported for several months. Fighters from Hezbollah, staunch supporters and allies of the Assad regime, have been sent to protect the site, AFP reported.
Also on Thursday, the Observatory reported heavy fighting in Aleppo's Salaheddin neighbourhood, where opposition rebels were advancing on the northern province.
At least 10 government troops were killed and there were several deaths in the rebels' ranks, the NGO added.