Syria ramps up attack on rebel-held areas
BEIRUTShelling and air raids by Syrian government forces against a string of villages in the northwestern province of Idlib killed at least 29 people while government forces pressed an assault on the Damascus district of Qaboon, stepping up efforts to drive opposition fighters from the capital and build on battlefield gains elsewhere in the country.
The military carried out five separate strikes, including a rocket attack on the village of Maghara that killed 13 people, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
The attack in Maghara was the deadliest, but the Observatory also reported six killed in the village of Al-Bara, four in Basamis, three in Kfar Nabl in an air strike and three in Iblin. The dead included at least eight women and six children, the Observatory said. The Observatory also reported that at least 13 people were killed in Damascus province on July 14, when a car bomb exploded outside a police station in the town of Deir Attiya. At least 10 policemen and three civilians were killed in the attack, the group said.
Meanwhile, government forces pressed an assault on the Damascus district of Qaboon, where they are trying to dislodge a rebel rear-base. Opposition sources said troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad advanced into Qaboun after subjecting the Sunni Muslim district to heavy shelling. Two adjacent rebel-held neighborhoods have been under sustained fire in recent weeks to cut off the movement of rebel fighters.
Diplomats and security sources said al-Assad appeared intent on securing the capital from rebels that pose a threat to his troops, who are dug into positions in the center of the city.