Syrian army breaks siege of army base near Damascus

Reuters News
Posted: Jan 07, 2018 4:13 PM

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syria's army has broken the siege of an army base encircled by opposition forces on the eastern outskirts of Damascus, state television and a war monitor reported on Sunday.

Last Sunday, rebels, mainly belonging to the Islamist Ahrar al Sham faction, widened their control of parts of the Military Vehicles Administration base in the Eastern Ghouta town of Harasta.

Army elite forces, backed by Russian jets, launched an offensive to break the siege and liberate at least 200 troops who were believed to be trapped within its sprawling, heavily defended grounds.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that the Syrian forces had "opened a loophole" that led them into the base.

Extensive bombing and violent clashes were taking place inside and around the base late at night, while the army fought its way to recapture the compound's buildings, the state tv reporter said during a live broadcast from a nearby location.

"Fighting is underway to expand the route that was opened into the base ... and the army will press on with its offensive beyond liberating the base," he added, expecting the battle for the base to end in the coming few hours.

The tv station aired footage of the battles earlier in the day that showed heavy smoke billowing from the battered buildings targeted by the army fire.

Rebel fighters had stormed the base last November in a drive to relieve pressure on Eastern Ghouta's towns and villages.

The base has long been used to strike at the densely populated Eastern Ghouta in an attempt to force the rebel enclave into submission. More than 300,000 people there have lived under siege by army troops since 2013.

(Reporting by Kinda Makieh and Dahlia Nehme; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle and Sandra Maler)