The offensive near the capital’s Old City marked a bid by rebels to relieve army pressure on besieged areas they control to the east of the capital.
Heavy Clashes Ongoing in Syria’s Damascus
As Syrian rebels reportedly launched a major offensive on Sunday close to the Old City of Damascus, government forces responded with intense bombardments of rebel-held areas, Reuters reported.
According to the news agency, the offensive, reported by witnesses, state TV, rebel sources, and a monitoring group, marked a bid by the rebels to relieve army pressure on besieged areas they control to the east of the capital.
Syrian state television said the army had repelled an infiltration attempt by the militants and bombarded them with artillery, inflicting heavy losses.
Reuters reported witnesses as having said the army deployed tanks in some adjacent neighborhoods, and troops could be seen patrolling on foot.
"The streets are empty and the army has dispatched dozens of troops in the streets, and tanks are being moved. The sounds of mortars from Jobar have not stopped," said a resident of the nearby Tijara district, who asked not to be named.
Another witness said most shops had closed in areas close to the fighting, as people fled further away from the clashes.
Heavy explosions rang out in the background as state TV broadcast live from the deserted Abbasiyin square, an area usually teeming with traffic and pedestrians.
With the recapture of the city of Aleppo last December, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's army reinforced its dominant position across most of the country. Since then it has been trying to break down rebel resistance in Damascus and reassert full control of the capital after six years of war.
The army and its militias have for months been targeting Eastern Ghouta, the biggest remaining rebel bastion near Damascus, while making only incremental gains.