Syrian regime breaks rebel siege on army base near Damascus

Syrian regime breaks rebel siege on army base near Damascus
The Syrian regime says its forces have ended a rebel siege on an army base in the eastern outskirts of Damascus.

2 min read
08 January, 2018
The rebels had attacked the base to relieve regime pressure on Ghouta [Getty]

The Syrian regime says it has ended a siege on an army base which had been encircled by opposition forces on the eastern outskirts of Damascus.

The state-affiliated al-Ikhbariya TV station said the Syrian army broke through rebel lines on Sunday to reach soldiers trapped at the Murakabat vehicle base near Harasta, in the eastern Ghouta suburbs of Damascus.

Syrian rebels mainly belonging to the Ahrar al-Sham rebel faction, which had seized parts of the base in the Eastern Ghouta last Sunday.

The rebel fighters had stormed the base in a drive to relieve pressure on Eastern Ghouta's towns and villages, which have been coming under relentless regime and allied bombing.

Regime forces backed by Russian jets launched an offensive to break the siege and free the nearly 200 troops who were believed to be trapped within its sprawling, heavily defended grounds, reported Reuters.

The base has long been used to strike at the densely populated Eastern Ghouta in an attempt to force the rebel enclave into submission. More than 300,000 people there have lived under siege by army troops since 2013.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group also reported the breakthrough.

According to the Observatory, 159 rebels and government soldier have been killed in fighting over the base since 29 December.

In Idlib, the regime has reportedly recaptured a strategically important town in the north-western province in its latest advance into the rebel-held territory this year.

Al-Ikhbariya TV also reported that regime forces took Sinjar on Sunday.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group says the gain "opens the road" for the regime troops to march on the rebel-held Abu Zuhour air base about 19 kilometres, or 12 miles, to the north.

The military has assigned one of its top commanders to lead the offensive into Idlib, the last major stronghold for rebels in northern Syria.

The UN says more than 2.5 million people are currently living in Idlib, including more than 1 million displaced by fighting from other parts the Syria.

The Syrian conflict began when the Baath regime, in power since 1963 and led by Assad, responded with military force to peaceful protests demanding democratic reforms during the Arab Spring wave of uprisings, triggering an armed rebellion fuelled by mass defections from the Syrian army.

The brutal tactics pursued mainly by the regime, which have included the use of chemical weapons, sieges, mass executions and torture against civilians have led to war crimes investigations.