January 26, 2015
By Dan Wilkofsky
AMMAN: The regime responded to Jaish al-Islam’s (JAI) barrage of rockets on Damascus Sunday with a heavy bombing campaign on the capital’s suburbs of East Ghouta, particularly JAI’s stronghold of Douma, that continued on Monday.
JAI rockets killed seven people and injured 50, reported pro-regime newspaper Al-Watan. The attack was billed as retribution for a regime aerial escalation against the rebel-held East Ghouta suburbs last week, Jaish al-Islam said.
The rockets struck, among many other neighborhoods in Damascus, al-Mezzeh, an Alawite-majority area home to many army officers, and al-Maliki, the capital’s wealthiest district, located near the presidential palace.
JAI leader Zahran Aloush announced an end to the campaign Sunday evening on Twitter by lifting the ‘curfew’ he had imposed on Damascus residents, perhaps intended to reduce civilian casualties during the barrage.
Aloush said that JAI had targeted regime military headquarters in the capital with 100 rockets, whereas pro-regime Dimashq Now placed the tally at 90, and said that the rockets hit “residents of Damascus, houses of Damascus, the children of Damascus, and the blood flowed.”
Although some regime checkpoints in the capital remained unchanged during the attacks, “soldiers visibly withdrew from other checkpoints…some soldiers were seen sitting in their cars, clearly terrified,” Muwafaq Abu Zeid, an opposition citizen journalist in the city, told Syria Direct Monday.
A Douma man inspects the ruins of his house on Sunday. Photo courtesy of Douma Revolution.
The regime began its retaliation for JAI’s rockets by bombing Douma on Sunday, killing two and wounding 15, Mohammed a-Thair, alias of an activist with the Violations Documentation Center, told Syria Direct.
The General Body for Douma’s Civil Defence (i.e. firefighters and rescue personnel) announced a “total alert,” calling on the people of East Ghouta to avoid meeting in public places in light of the “barbaric bombing” campaign.
At least eight successive airstrikes pounded Douma Monday, according to footage shot by a resident and uploaded to YouTube.
The court of public opinion
An informal survey of public opinion in Douma appeared split on whether JAI’s rocket barrage on Damascus was worth the bloodshed that followed.
“We’re very happy [with the rocket barrage], because those who live under the regime’s embrace got to experience the bombing and fear that we experience in Douma,” Ismael Abdullah, a Douma resident, told Syria Direct.
Others thought that JAI ought to prioritize protecting those under its control over hitting Damascus, including a citizen journalist in Douma who preferred to remain anonymous.
“People in Douma celebrate when Jaish al-Islam directs the 23mm machine guns on [regime] warplanes in Ghouta’s skies, more so than 100 missiles falling on Damascus.”
As for JAI leader Zahran Aloush, the regime’s assault on Sunday seems not to have weakened his resolve to launch attacks on Damascus, according to remarks made at a press conference Monday.
“We’re preparing a much bigger surprise than the last,” Aloush said.
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