BACKTRACKING: Rebels led by Free Syrian Army-associated battalions and Jabhat a-Nusra announced Monday that they captured the east Damascus suburb Dukhaniyeh as part of their larger strategy to retake the town of Mleiha – the east gateway in and out of the capital.
While much of the media attention around Damascus has been focused on the regime’s vicious aerial campaign against nearby Jobar, ultimately al-Dukhaniyeh may prove to be more crucial in the battle for the capital.
By taking Dukhaniyeh, the rebels hope to cut off the central road that transports troops and military supplies between central Damascus and Mleiha.
For the rebels, Mleiha is a direct route into the city of Damascus. For the regime, controlling Mleiha means preventing the rebels from shelling the road to the Damascus International Airport, as well as positioning its troops to invade the heart of rebel-held East Ghouta.
The rebels will now likely target the adjacent pro-regime town of Jaramana, which sits directly between Dukhaniyeh and Mleiha.
“If the FSA is able to capture Jaramana after controlling al-Dukhaniyeh, they will take back Mleiha,” an East Ghouta-based pro-opposition activist who asked to remain anonymous told Syria Direct Tuesday.
Rather than directly confront the regime in Mleiha, the rebels hope to first isolate the regime forces in the town and then attack the weakened fighters.
The opposition and the regime have been fighting over al-Dukhaniyeh since the Syrian army wrested control of Mleiha from the rebels in mid-August after a months-long siege on the town.
In response to the rebels’ takeover of Dukhaniyeh, the regime launched a series of airstrikes against the neighborhood Tuesday, according to pro-opposition news agency Greater Damascus Coordination.
“Dukhaniyeh is no longer a suitable place for living,” the activist added. “Seeing as it is an area destroyed by [aerial] bombing, only the regime can be responsible.”
-September 16, 2014
-Photo courtesy of @baraa2abd.
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