Syrian forces kill 20 rebel fighters

Damascus: Syrian forces killed 20 rebel fighters east of the capital Damascus on Saturday, media reports said.

Rebel commanders were among those killed in the eastern Ghouta countryside of Damascus, Xinhua cited the state news agency SANA as saying.

Sources familiar with the situation said the rebels in Damascus’ eastern neighbourhood of Jobar on Saturday launched a major offensive against the nearby district of Zablatani, which is under government control, prompting the Syrian forces to respond with heavy firepower.

The sound of gunshots reverberated through various parts of heavily-fortified Damascus. The rebels’ offensive was coupled with heavy mortar shelling on districts and squares inside Damascus.

Syrian TV said at least one civilian was killed and many wounded in the mortar attack.

Sources said the Syrian army successfully repelled the attack, which they said was “expected”.

The rebels in eastern Damascus apparently carried out the offensive to lower the pressure on their comrades in the city of Zabadani in northwestern Damascus, where the Syrian forces and Hezbollah group launched a massive assault on Saturday in a bid to clear the city and the entire region of Qalamoun of the Al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front and its allied militant groups.

A victory by the Syrian forces and Hezbollah would shield the Lebanese borders from the threat of the Nusra Front, amid reports that most of the blasts that targeted Lebanon recently were planned by the rebels in Syria and the cars were booby-trapped in Qalamoun.