Syria rebels shell Damascus main squares, kill 2
Published Wednesday 23/10/2013 (updated) 25/10/2013 15:33
An opposition fighter stands in the doorway of a building in the
Jubaila neighborhood of Deir Ezzor on Oct. 22, 2013
(AFP/File Ahmad Aboud)
BEIRUT(AFP) -- Syrian rebels shelled two of Damascus's main squares Wednesday, killing two people and wounding at least four others, a monitoring group said.
Meanwhile, mainstream and Islamist rebels pressed an advance against troops in Homs province aimed at capturing major weapons depots, rebels and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
"We have confirmed reports that at least two people were injured in a shelling attack this afternoon near the Sheraton Hotel in Umayyad Square in the heart of the capital, while... at least two people were killed and four others injured when two mortar shells hit Abbasiyeen Square," said the Observatory.
Both Abbasiyeen and Umayyad squares have seen intermittent shelling by rebels positioned nearby in recent weeks, as violence has escalated on the outskirts of Damascus.
State news agency SANA had earlier reported the shelling on Umayyad Square, which is home to several buildings housing government, military, security and cultural facilities.
SANA had described the shelling as "a terrorist attack," a reference to rebels.
In central Syria, several brigades, among them the al-Qaida-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and al-Nusra Front, seized control of army positions "near weapons depots, by Mahin village," the Observatory said.
Rebels also seized a gas well located outside Sadad, a Christian town near Mahin, said the Observatory, as clashes pitted them against loyalists.
On Monday, opposition fighters entered Sadad, aiming to advance through it towards Mahin and the depots.
But the army pushed them back and deployed its own troops in Sadad.
The Observatory reported five killed in Wednesday's clashes there.
Continuously inhabited for thousands of years, the town lies on the road linking Mahin and the rebel-held Qalamun area of Damascus province.
A rebel commander said "the regime is responsible for whatever happens to this historic town," and that his men had entered the town without a fight.
"The police station surrendered without resistance, and there were no clashes until the regime tried to retake the town by force. It used warplanes, artillery, tanks and all kinds of conventional weapons," said Lieutenant Colonel Oraba Idriss, who defected from the army to join the rebels.
Many of the town's residents have fled in the past hours.
The Observatory meanwhile said the rebels' aim in Sadad was "not to take over the town, but to take control of the hospital, so that their wounded fighters can be treated there."
Elsewhere, fighting raged in Moadamiyet al-Sham southwest of Damascus, which has been under army siege for nearly a year.
The opposition has called for humanitarian corridors to allow aid into the rebel town.