Dubai: Heavy explosions shook the Syrian capital Saturday and helicopters circled overhead as rebels appeared to be renewing their offensive in the city, witnesses and activists said.
The fresh battles show that President Bashar Al Assad’s victories could be fleeting as armed opposition groups regroup and resurge, possibly forcing the regime to shuffle military units to react to attacks across the country.
The civil war has intensified in recent weeks as rebels focused on the two biggest cities, Damascus and Aleppo.
July was reported to be the deadliest month in the 17-month revolution, with 4,329 people killed according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The figure included 3,001 civilians — among them civilians who have taken up arms — as well as 1,133 government troops and 105 army defectors.
Since the uprising began last March, at least 21,053 people have been killed, among them 14,710 civilians along with 5,363 troops and 980 defectors, the Observatory added.
As the fighting grinds on, Syria reached out to its powerful ally Russia on Friday. Senior Syrian officials pleaded with Moscow for financial loans and supplies of oil products — an indication that international sanctions are squeezing Al Assad’s regime.
Syria is thought to be burning quickly through the $17 billion in foreign reserves that the government was believed to have at the start of the crackdown.
Meanwhile, Iranian state TV reported 48 Iranian pilgrims kidnapped from a bus in the Syrian capital on Saturday.
“Armed terrorist groups kidnapped 48 Iranian pilgrims on their way to the airport,” Majid Kamjou said. “There are no reports about the fate of the pilgrims. The embassy and Syrian officials are trying to trace the kidnappers,” he said.