Syrian government jets bombarded opposition-held neighbourhoods of Damascus on Monday a day after opposition forces launched a surprise assault. Rebel groups allied with former al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat Fateh al-Sham attacked government positions in the east of the capital early on Sunday morning in a complex and co-ordinated operation.
But forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad drove them back by nightfall, a war monitor said, and began a fierce bombing campaign on Monday morning.
“There have been intense air strikes since dawn on opposition-held positions in Jobar from which the offensive was launched,” Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said.
“The government and allied forces have retaken the initiative and are striking the groups that launched yesterday’s assault,” he added.
Abdel Rahman said it was unclear whether government forces or their Russian allies were carrying out Monday’s raids on Jobar.
The fighting killed at least 26 government soldiers or allied fighters and 21 rebels, Abdel Rahman said, but he did not have an immediate toll for Monday morning’s raids.
Al Jazeera’s Mohamed Al Jazaeri, reporting from near Damascus, said at least 15 civilians had been killed after government forces shelled residential neighborhoods in Eastern Ghouta.
Al Jazeera’s Imtiaz Tyab, reporting from Beirut, said people in the old city reported walls reverberating with the ferocity of the government’s bombardment, and that rebel activists had described the raids as “relentless”.
“We understand that since daybreak there has been around 30 airstrikes in [Jobar],” Tyab said, adding that there were reports of heavy rebel losses, although credible figures were not yet available.