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Major Clashes Reported in Damascus after Anti-government Rebels Infiltrate Tunnels

  • Ken Bredemeier

Gunmen carrying their weapons and some family members leave the al-Waer neighborhood bound for a town on the Turkish border, in Homs, Syria, Saturday, March 18, 2017.

Gunmen carrying their weapons and some family members leave the al-Waer neighborhood bound for a town on the Turkish border, in Homs, Syria, Saturday, March 18, 2017.

Syrian forces and rebels battled on the fringes of Damascus Sunday after the insurgents infiltrated the capital through tunnels overnight and staged a surprise assault on government-held parts of the city.

The rebels began the day with two car bombs and several suicide attacks, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group reported. The insurgents seized several buildings in the Jobar neighborhood of the heavily fortified city, about two kilometers northeast of the old city walls, with residents saying that artillery shells and rockets were landing inside the heart of the city.But after the initial rebel advance, the monitoring group said that government warplanes strafed insurgent positions with more than 30 air strikes, the latest chapter in what is now a six-year conflict.

Smoke billows following a reported air strike in the rebel-held parts of the Jobar district, on the eastern outskirts of the Syrian capital Damascus, March 19, 2017.

Smoke billows following a reported air strike in the rebel-held parts of the Jobar district, on the eastern outskirts of the Syrian capital Damascus, March 19, 2017.

State media said troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad had successfully "blocked an attack by terrorists on military points and residential buildings in Jobar."

Heavy explosions erupted in the background as state television broadcast live from Abbasiyin Square, normally teeming with activity but empty after the army ordered residents to stay inside.

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