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Strikes pound east Damascus after rebel assault

Damascus (AFP) – Syrian government forces clashed with rebels and hammered opposition-held areas of east Damascus on Monday, before calm returned to the capital after a surprise assault.

In the north of the country, meanwhile, a Kurdish militia said the Russian military is to train Kurdish forces fighting the Islamic State group.

Rebels and allied jihadists, led by former Al-Qaeda affiliate Fateh al-Sham Front, early Sunday attacked government positions in east Damascus, initially scoring gains.

But forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad drove them back by nightfall and began a fierce bombing campaign, a monitor said, before calm was restored on Monday afternoon in eastern Damascus where shops reopened and cars returned to the roads.

The guns fell silent following what Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, termed “intense air strikes… on opposition-held positions in Jobar from which the offensive was launched”.

He could not specify whether Syrian or allied Russian warplanes carried out the raids.

Control of the district — which has been a battleground for more than two years and is the closest rebel position to the heart of Damascus — is divided between rebels and allied jihadists on one side and government forces on the other.

Earlier Monday, regime forces clashed with rebel groups in an industrial zone between Jobar and Qabun, a besieged opposition-held district to the north.

“In their assault yesterday (Sunday), rebels were able to open a road for several hours between Qabun and Jobar, but the area is now a front line and they can no longer cross between the two,” Abdel Rahman said.

A Syrian military source told AFP the army had recaptured “most of the positions where rebels advanced yesterday”.

“The army foiled the armed groups’ plan to link the Jobar district with Qabun,” the source said.

– Rebels hit Russian embassy –

Sunday’s rebel assault was their most important incursion inside Damascus in years.

After seizing several buildings…

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