Assad air power keeps rebels targeting Damascus in stranglehold

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Syrian government troops battled rebels in several areas outside Damascus yesterday while regime warplanes bombed opposition-held areas around the capital, including an airstrike on one village that killed at least seven people, activists said.

Rebels seeking to topple President Bashar Assad have seized areas of territory in northern Syria but have become bogged down in their push for Damascus, where government troops are still firmly in control.

While the opposition fighters have established footholds in suburbs east and south of the capital, Assad’s forces have kept them from advancing into the heart of the city and regularly hit them with artillery and air strikes.

Much of the fighting yesterday was focused in areas east and south of the city, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, while government jets were bombing rebel areas. An airstrike on the village of al-Barika, south east of the capital, killed at least seven people, including five members of the same family, the Observatory said.

A video posted online showed what activists said was the aftermath of an air strike on the central village of Kafr Aya. The video showed more than 10 wounded people being treated in a field hospital. Some the injured were children.

The state news agency said yesterday that troops had killed “scores of terrorists” in two rebellious southern suburbs of Damascus. The government considers the rebels and its other internal opponents “terrorists” backed by foreign powers that seek to destroy Syria.

Also yesterday, the Observatory distributed two videos showing a rebel beating a captured government soldier with a rope.