DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — Syrian troops have captured most of a strategic Damascus suburb used by rebels as a base to threaten key regime facilities in the capital, a government official said Saturday.
The announcement that regime forces had taken Daraya came a day after anti-government activists said rebels and Islamic militants seeking to topple President Bashar Assad took full control of Taftanaz air base in the northwest. That dealt a significant blow to Assad’s military, with helicopters, tanks and multiple rocket launchers seized.
The back-to-back declarations highlight the see-saw nature of the conflict in Syria, where one side’s victories in one area are often followed by reverses in another.
“The army is battling some small pockets (of rebels) and (Daraya) will be safe within few days,” the official told The Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.
Syrian troops have been battling for weeks to regain Daraya from the hands of anti-government fighters. The suburb, just south of Damascus, is on the edge of the strategic military air base of Mazzeh in a western neighborhood of the capital. It borders the Kfar Sousseh neighborhood that is home to the government headquarters, the General Security intelligence agency head office and the Interior Ministry, which was the target of a recent suicide attack that wounded the interior minister.
The suburb is also less than 10 kilometers (six miles) from the People’s Palace – one of three palaces in the capital used by Assad.