At least three civilians were killed in a rocket attack on residential areas of Damascus on Thursday, state news agency SANA said, in what appeared to be the second heavy bombardment by insurgent group Jaysh al-Islam (Army of Islam) in less than two weeks.
Shells thought to be fired from the east of the capital could be heard exploding in the city, a witness said, and local media reported that Army of Islam, a Saudi-backed group based in the eastern Ghouta region on the outskirts of the city, was behind the attack.
Ghouta is a key rebel bastion. The army has sought to capture rebel rear bases around the capital, which is frequently the target of rebel rockets fired from the city's outskirts.
SANA said Thursday’s attack was "terrorist," without giving further details. The Syrian government refers to all armed opposition fighters in Syria as “terrorists.”
Three civilians were killed and 30 others were injured according to the agency.
Army of Islam's leader said on Tuesday that his group would target the Syrian capital.
The same group struck the capital with at least 38 rockets on January 25, killing nine civilians in one of the heaviest attacks on Damascus in over a year.
Damascus has been relatively calm, shielded from the war since the Syrian army and pro-regime fighters pushed the rebels back in 2013.
On Sunday, a bomb claimed by al-Qaeda's Nusra Front tore apart a bus carrying Lebanese pilgrims in Damascus.
A witness in Damascus on Thursday heard more than 30 bombardments in quick succession. Local radio Sham FM said the projectiles had hit at least five areas of the capital, including the historic Old City. People posted images on social media said to show plumes of smoke rising above the city.
A message on a Twitter account thought to belong to Army of Islam leader Zahran Alloush said the attack was a "taste" of what the Syrian military had done to Ghouta. He described Damascus as a "military zone" in a statement earlier this week and said his group would respond to Syrian air force strikes on Ghouta.
On January 18, Syrian forces evacuated more than 2,100 people from Eastern Ghouta. The area had suffered food and medical shortages due to the conflict.
Syria's conflict began as a peaceful revolt demanding democratic change, but evolved into a brutal war after government forces violently repressed demonstrators. Islamists have since poured into the country from all over the world, seeking to establish an “Islamic caliphate.”
More than 200,000 people have been reportedly killed since March 2011 and half of Syria’s population of 22 million has been forced to flee their homes.
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