September 15, 2014
The regime launched a fierce campaign August 28 to capture the East Damascus neighborhood of Jobar, the closest rebel-held area to Damascus situated just east of the Abbasid Square, in an attempt to push rebels as far as possible away from Damascus proper.
The campaign comes two weeks after regime forces recaptured the town of Mleiha in the Eastern Damascus suburbs, cutting off a potential entry point for the FSA into Damascus via Mleiha’s western front.
The regime has thrown its weight into the new campaign in Jobar, using warplanes, mortars, surface-surface missiles, and parachute missiles–which contain large amounts of explosive material and are more accurate than conventional missiles—an activist with the Jobar media office who wished to remain anonymous tells Syria Direct’s Mohammed Al-Haj Ali.
Internecine fighting continued over the weekend, with the battle for turf measured in the number of buildings captured: Two buildings taken by rebels amidst reports of the regime’s use of chlorine gas, an unnamed leader of an Islamist brigade killed and a Syrian lieutenant also killed.
For now, both sides are fighting hard for both a symbolic and strategic victory.
The loss of the the district for the rebels, the activist says, “would set us back two years.”
Q: What’s going on right now in the neighborhood of Jobar?
The regime is now using parachute missiles, which enjoy considerable destructive potential.
They struck Jobar with more than 150 parachute missiles, concurrent with 12 air raids and forceful shelling with mortars and heavy artillery in just one day [last week].
They started to raid the neighborhood from three axes, from Tayba [in the north of Jobar], from Arifa [a checkpoint at the western entrance to the neighborhood], and from al-Munashir [on the neighborhood’s southern rim].
Jobar neighborhood on September 9. Photo courtesy of Lens young Dimashqi.
Q: Why is the regime attacking Jobar with such ferocity now?
The regime tried dozens of times to gain control of the neighborhood since it was liberated [captured by rebels]. Jobar began to represent a threat to the regime.
The regime is trying to distance the rebels from the capital as much as possible–for that reason they began the campaign in Mleiha and afterwards in Jobar.
Q: What does Jobar represent to the regime?
Jobar is one of the neighborhoods of East Damascus, and represents a huge danger to the regime, as it is very close to the Abbasid Square which is a main square in the capital.
It’s Ghouta’s gate into the capital.
Q: What will happen if the regime takes control of Jobar?
The regime will have distanced the rebels from the capital and contained their presence in Damascus to Ghouta.
Also, if the regime captured Jobar they would be present along the highway which separates Jobar from East Ghouta. That would mean regime presence along the gates of Ghouta, from Ain Turma and Zamleka.
Q: If Jobar falls, how will that influence the revolution?
It will heavily impact rebel morale seeing as it is the closest neighborhood to Damascus and everyone hopes to enter the capital.
Secondly, it would mean a rebel retreat away from the capital; the new front would fall along the highway. It would set us back two years.
Q: Who is winning in Jobar right now–the regime or the FSA?
The FSA took control over the Arifa checkpoint and the surrounding buildings during Ramadan. Arifa falls on the highway which separates Jobar from the Abbasid Square.
Recently, the regime was able to advance and take over several buildings on the Tayba front after days of fighting.
Q: Where are the civilians of Jobar fleeing to? Who is left in the neighborhood?
Since the neighborhood was liberated, civilians fled to to East Ghouta because there are passageways connecting Jobar with East Ghouta. Only a small number of civilians are still in the neighborhood.
Q: How was life in Jobar before the latest military campaign?
Life has essentially stopped in the neighborhood since it was liberated. At that time, Jobar became one of the most active fronts in the area.
There are still some civilian families who did not abandon their homes.
There is near-daily bombing and air raids. It was relatively insignificant-a raid or two every day-until the liberation of the Arifa checkpoint. Then, the regime escalated the bombing campaigns.
And on August 28 the regime began its most violent campaign on the neighborhood.
Q: Can you give me some general information on the neighborhood?
Jobar is a neighborhood in East Damascus, most of its 300,000 residents are Sunni Muslims.
It contains a number of ancient landmarks, like the Grand Jobar Mosque, and the Green Synagogue, the oldest Jewish synagogue in the world. There is the tomb of the Prophet Elija, and and ancient Jobar baths that were built in Ottoman times.
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