Damascus- Syrian regime troops have pounded suburbs of Damascus as official forces battled rebels inching ever closer to the capital Damascus amid fears that all-out battles may break out there, a monitoring group, The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, says Wednesday.
The Observatory, which uses a countrywide network of activists, lawyers and doctors to compile its tolls, said at least 53 people were killed on Wednesday, including some 21 in and around Damascus.
Warplanes blasted several towns and villages east and southwest of the city, the Observatory added. The watchdog also reported security force swooped on several areas in the city center.
“By day, the streets of Syria's capital are crowded with cars and with shoppers. It looks normal, but it isn't - by noon, people are planning how to get home before nightfall.” Reuters added on Wednesday.
Roads suddenly blocked by the army cause traffic jams. Workers race to quit the office, hit the shops and get home by dark. Dark is when the kidnappers come out to seek new victims, and the clashes raging on the outskirts creep ever closer to the heart of Damascus, Reuters said.
Damascus province has in recent days been the focus of clashes following a major operation launched last week by President Bashar al-Assad's forces to prevent rebels from advancing on the capital, analysts say.
Part of the battle for Damascus province is about securing the airport road, which runs southeast of the capital to Syria's main link to the outside world.
"The army has continued to pursue armed groups near the road to the international airport... killing and injuring dozens of terrorists," Al-Watan pro-regime daily said on Wednesday. The government describes insurgents as "terrorists."
Syria`s state-run news agency SANA said “Units of the Armed Forces continued on Wednesday pursuing Jabhat al-Nusra terrorists and destroyed a vehicle equipped with 23 caliber cannon, three motorcycles and a van and eliminated all terrorists onboard in al-Ateibeh town in Damascus countryside.”
For months, the people of Damascus have nervously watched their ancient city dragged deeper into Syria's bloody conflict.
Fighting has already laid waste to much of the northern city of Aleppo and burned parts of its vaulted Old City quarter to the ground. Whole swathes of central Homs have been reduced to rubble.
In the northwest, seven soldiers were killed in "a rebel attack on a checkpoint south of Maaret al-Numan on the Aleppo-Damascus road," the Observatory said.
There was also fighting around the Wadi Deif military base, which has been under siege since rebels took Maaret al-Numan in October, it reported.
Rebels attacked Aleppo gas station which feeds turbines to generate electric power in the city, putting 1,050 megawatt out of service, according to SANA report on Wednesday.
The armed forces continued their pursuit operations against terrorists of al-Qaeda-liked Jabhat al-Nusra and their gatherings in Aleppo and its countryside, carrying out qualitative operations leading to the killing of tens of terrorists, SANA added.
SANA also reported that Syrian regime army carried out qualitative operations against “terrorists of Jabhat al-Nusra” in Homs and its countryside, inflicting heavy losses upon them.
Another unit of the Army destroyed 4 cars carrying a group of terrorists on Qastal Maaf road in Lattakia countryside, SANA added.
Reports said that more than 41,000 people have been killed as the Syrian conflict approaches the 21-month mark.