AMMAN, Nov 19 (Reuters) - Syrian rebels said on Monday they
had seized the headquarters of an army battalion near the
southern gate of Damascus, the nearest military base to the
capital reported to have fallen to opposition fighters.
Two units of the Islamist rebel groups Ansar al-Islam and
Jund Allah Brigades said in a statement that they had taken the
base of the Air Defence Battalion near Hajar al-Aswad after four
days of fighting.
Video footage showed rebels walked through the site, past
destroyed anti-aircraft guns, and one commander saying on a
walkie-talkie: "We have completely seized the compound."
Independent verification of the report was not possible.
Opposition activists said the Syrian army had attacked
southern districts of Damascus with shelling and rockets all day
to try to stop the rebels seizing the base, in some of the
heaviest bombardment on the capital in the 20-month revolt.
The base is on the edge of Hajar al-Aswad district,
normally home to thousands of poor refugees from the
Israeli-occupied Golan Heights who were at the forefront of the
movement against Assad's autocratic rule at the beginning of the
After months of slow progress, marked by poor organisation
and supply, rebels have taken over several army positions in
outlying regions in the last week, including a Special Forces
base near the northern city of Aleppo and a small military
airport in the east, on the border with Iraq.