Assad troops capture key town near Damascus



BARBARA SURK | AP

Published — Thursday 25 April 2013

Last update 26 April 2013 8:38 am

| نسخة PDF Print News | A A

BEIRUT: After five weeks of battle, Syrian government troops captured a strategic town near Damascus, cutting an arms route for rebels trying to topple President Bashar Assad’s regime, state media and activists said Thursday.
By taking the town of Otaybah, east of the capital, the army has dealt a major setback to opposition forces, who in the past months have made gains near the city they eventually hope to storm.
With fresh supplies of weapons from foreign backers, the rebels have recently seized military bases and towns south of the capital in the strategically important region between Damascus and the border with Jordan, about 160 kilometers (100 miles) away.
The regime has largely kept the rebels at bay in Damascus, although opposition fighters control several suburbs of the capital from which they have threatened the heart of the city, the seat of Assad’s power. Last month government troops launched a massive campaign to repel the rebel advances near the capital, deploying elite army units to the rebellious Damascus suburbs and pounding rebel positions with airstrikes.
The director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Rami Abdul-Rahman, said government troops regained control of Otaybah late Wednesday.
State-run SANA news agency said Thursday that the army has “restored complete control” over Otaybah. The official news services also said Assad’s troops “discovered a number of tunnels which were used by terrorists to move and transfer weapons and ammunitions.”
The regime and state media refer to rebels as terrorists and accuse them of being part of a foreign plot seeking to destroy Syria.
“It’s a huge victory for the regime, and a big blow to the opposition that is now in danger of losing other towns and villages around Damascus,” Abdul-Rahman said of the army’s campaign.
On Thursday, the army was already capitalizing on the territorial gains, pounding southern suburbs of Damascus including the long-contested Daraya with artillery and air strikes, according to the Observatory. The group relies on a network of activists on the ground that also reported fierce clashes between rebels and army troops to the east of the capital.
The army’s offensive to dislodge rebel fighters from neighborhoods ringing Damascus is part of the government’s broader campaign to secure central provinces of Hama and Homs, and areas along the Lebanese border. The region is of strategic value to Assad’s regime because it links Damascus with the coastal enclave that is the heartland of Syria’s Alawites and also home to the country’s two main seaports, Latakia and Tartus.
Otaybah is located on a road linking Damascus to its international airport, along which rebels have been transporting weapons and other supplies from neighboring Jordan. The capital’s surrounding towns and neighborhoods have been opposition strongholds during the 2-year-old conflict.
Losing control of the town will make the defense of rebel enclaves in southern suburbs such as Douma, Harasta and others very difficult, Abdul-Rahman said. The loss of the arms supply route is a major blow to opposition forces trying to overthrow Assad.
The Syrian conflict started with largely peaceful protests against Assad’s regime in March 2011 but eventually turned into a civil war.
The fighting has exacted a huge toll on the country, killing more than 70,000 people, laying waste to cities, towns and villages and forcing more than a million people to flee their homes and seek refuge abroad. Millions have also been displaced inside Syria.
International aid agencies have been pleading for funds to help refugees in neighboring countries such as Jordan and Lebanon. They have also been asking the Syrian government to allow aid convoys into the country and facilitate access to the area inside cities and towns that have been affected by fighting.
The latest damage to the country’s rich cultural heritage came on Wednesday, when the minaret of the landmark 12th century Umayyad Mosque in the northern city of Aleppo was destroyed during fighting in the old walled city.

What's happening around Saudi Arabia

JEDDAH: A Mercedes car with a Saudi number plate was spotted in Israel. The discovery led to intense discussion on social media websites on Tuesday.According to reports, the car was spotted last week in Jaffa’s Clock Tower Square by Jacky Hugi, the M...
RIYADH: The Kingdom is experiencing extremely hot weather conditions.According to a report from the Presidency of Meteorology and Environment (PME), Central Province, Jeddah, Makkah and Madinah, experienced “extremely hot weather with surface winds a...
ALKHOBAR: Many Saudi citizens travel outside the Kingdom during vacations looking for entertainment for themselves and their families as entertainment facilities in the Kingdom do not meet their aspirations. They have called for setting up entertainm...
TAIF: Makkah Gov. Prince Khaled Al-Faisal inaugurated state-of-the-art Radf public park in Taif which has an interactive fountain — the biggest of its kind in the Kingdom and spread over 13,000 sq meters. The fountain has colored lighting and a displ...
JEDDAH: The Special Criminal Court has issued a preliminary order in a case related to a Saudi national who fought with militant organizations in Syria. The court, functioning at its summer headquarters in Jeddah, sentenced him to a seven-year jail t...
RI YADH: The Kingdom has decided to increase the financial aid to Palestine by raising its monthly aid to the Palestinian Authority’s budget from $14 million to $20 million. The substantial increase brings Saudi Arabia’s yearly aid for Palestine to $...
JEDDAH: The Saudi Ambassador to Jordan has rejected terror charges against Saudis incarcerated in Iraqi jails and slammed the government of that country for concealing information on the inmates."The file of Saudi prisoners in Iraq has grabbed the at...
JEDDAH: Six female members of the Shoura Council participated in a training program to raise awareness among citizens on the municipal elections in which women will participate. The program was organized by Al-Nahda Philanthropic Society for Women un...
RIYADH: Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman has issued an order appointing and promoting 96 members at the Bureau of Investigation and Public Prosecution (BIPP) at various ranks.Sheikh Mohammed bin Fahd Al Abdullah, BIPP president, expresse...
DAMMAM: After the recent increase in verbal and physical harassment of women and girls in the Kingdom, they have turned to martial arts in order to protect themselves. Amani Yassin, a coach at Taekwondo Training Institute, said: “Saudi women are inte...
RIYADH: A youth has been arrested for allegedly killing a Saudi man near the Madinah airport recently. The police apprehended the alleged killer without incident. The suspect, a 24-year-old Saudi, is alleged to have stabbed the victim several times...
RIYADH: A total of 4,326 male and female students started their local and regional summer program for 2015 under the sponsorship of the King Abdul Aziz and his Companions Foundation for the Gifted and Creativity (Mawhiba) throughout the Kingdom on Su...
BURAIDAH: The security patrolling team in Qassim detained a woman for driving a car on the streets of Buraidah.Her case was referred to the higher-ups for necessary action.According to Maj. Badar Al-Sahibani, spokesman Qassim police, the woman is ide...
RIYADH: Recent statistics announced by the Saudi Commission for Health Specialties, which coincided with consensus surveys in the Kingdom for the year 2014, revealed that there is only one doctor for each 800 people, and one nurse for every 285 peopl...
Indian expats have paid glowing tributes to one of its most beloved presidents and iconic leaders on Tuesday, as condolences poured in from various parts of the Kingdom for A.P.J. Abdul Kalam following his sudden death on Monday.Hemant Kotalwar, char...

Stay Connected

Facebook