Syrian government forces step up airstrikes on Barada valley near Damascus
The Barada Valley area that is close to the Syrian capital Damascus remains the target of aerial bombardment and artillery barrages for the fifteenth day in a row. The Syrian regime has intensified air raids on villages and towns under siege and has been dropping more barrel bombs on civilian neighbourhoods. The regime has also been using mortar bombs and sniper rifles to target innocent civilians in the area, and the Syrian opposition considers this as a “continued and clear breach of the ceasefire that is sponsored by Russia and Turkey”.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights stated that “Violent clashes took place on Thursday between the regime’s forces and its allies on the one hand, and between armed opposition groups on the other in Eastern Qalamoun. Warplanes carried out raids on the area at the same time as the clashes. The Observatory also said that violent clashes “took place between factions and Hezbollah fighters in the villages of Husseiniya and Basima in Barada Valley”. The Observatory continued by saying that warplanes and helicopters “carried out more air strikes on areas in the Valley in conjunction with intense bombardment by artillery shells and missile bombardment on the towns in the Barada Valley and its rural areas. The exact number of casualties is unknown.”
On the other hand, a member of the Syrian opposition said that “the opposition has foiled a new attempt made by the regime to advance on a front and they were able to kill a number of the soldiers”. He also pointed out that “if the regime and its allies do not comply with the cease-fire resolution, the battle will be a long one”. He continued by saying that “According to our information, Hezbollah is seeking to evacuate the border region … in order to impose a long security belt in anticipation of a future that it fears”.
The opposition source who declined to be named noted that “Designated terrorist groups such as ISIS [Daesh] and Jabhat Fateh Al-Sham do not have a military presence” and that the regime “is promoting its claims about the presence of Al-Nusra Front in order to justify the bombing of civilians in the Barada Valley and in eastern Ghouta.”
It is worth mentioning that continuous battles have been taking place in the Barada Valley region between the two sides since the 20th of December 2016 following an attack carried out by the regime’s forces and its allies in a bid to seize control of the area which supplies Damascus with water.