A major new battle is shaping up in southern Syria, roughly 6 km south of metro Damascus and 25 km from the Golan Heights, with locals reporting large amounts of gunfire and explosions.
The fighting contests a region called Khan Sheih, where the Fourth Mechanized Division, headed by President Bashar Assad’s brother Maher is fighting what rebels say is a combined force of around 1,000 rebel fighters.
The fighting began when a missile squadron’s position was overrun earlier in the week, and troops are now struggling with rebels over control of several towns in the area, with rebels saying their goal is to weaken the army siege on the Damascus suburb of Daraya, long rebel-held.
Rebel and government forces have been fighting in the Golan Heights for weeks, and last week the rebels captured 21 UN soldiers who were monitoring the Syria-Israel ceasefire. The troops were released over the weekend.