Rebel leader promises Damascus rocket storm

A Syrian rebel leader has vowed a resumption of rocket fire on Damascus beginning Wednesday.

Zahran Alloush, the leader of the Islam Army, made the vow in a statement released Tuesday and said the barrage would come in response to a series of deadly regime air raids on the Damascus suburbs.

“Because the capital is full of military barracks, intelligence centers, artillery and rocket facilities … we declare the entire city of Damascus a military zone and an arena for [military] operations,” Alloush said.

“We ask all civilians, diplomats and students to stay away from any regime center, checkpoint or vehicle” throughout the day, he added.

Alloush’s Islam Army militia carried out a similar threat late last month, also citing several deadly regime airstrikes against rebel-held suburbs as its justification. Dozens of rockets and mortar bombs killed at least seven people in the capital before it was called off in the late afternoon by Alloush.

Pro-opposition circles were divided on the value of last month’s barrage; some maintained that the rebels should inflict pain on regime-held areas while others argued that causing civilian casualties would only turn more people against the armed opposition.

Damascus has largely been spared the ravages of the war, although jihadi groups have claimed a number of car bomb attacks, often targeting government or military targets.

Several rebel-fired mortar bombs struck neighborhoods in Damascus Tuesday and wounded an unspecified number of people, according to activist groups and the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The Observatory urged the U.N. to swiftly condemn the regime of President Bashar Assad for its aerial onslaught throughout the country. It said more than 160 people were killed or wounded Monday by some 130 airstrikes, which included and helicopter-dropped “barrel bombs.”

Four airstrikes on the town of Jassim in Deraa province killed 17 people alone Monday, the Observatory said, while airstrikes kept pounding the Damascus suburb of Douma for a second straight day, killing and wounding several dozen people. Also Tuesday, regime forces and rebel groups clashed in and around the city of Aleppo, with conflicting reports as to whether either side was gaining the upper hand.

Rebel groups released video footage of what they said was around a dozen regime troops who were captured in the clashes.

In the eastern town of Deir al-Zor, regime troops and ISIS militants clashed in daylong battles that saw fatalities on both sides, the Observatory said.

And on the border with Turkey, Kurdish forces and their rebel allies seized a belt of villages around the town of Ain al-Arab from ISIS militants, a senior official said, days after they drove the extremists from the Syrian border town.

“Most of the villages close to Kobani have been liberated,” said senior Kurdish official Anwar Muslim, using the town’s Kurdish name. “The rest will be liberated soon.”

Muslim said Kurdish forces and their allies had secured a diameter of 10 to 15 km around Ain al-Arab. The Observatory for Human Rights reported similar information.

Kurdish officials meanwhile asked for international funds to rebuild the devastated area. “We liberated the city but most of it is destroyed,” Muslim said.

In an appeal sent to media outlets, Muslim and other Kurdish officials asked the United Nations to “actively take part in reconstruction of the province” and to open a “humanitarian corridor” to allow displaced Syrians to return.

U.S. and allied forces staged airstrikes on 14 ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria in a 24-hour period, the Combined Joint Task Force said.

Two of the strikes hit ISIS tactical units near Ain al-Arab. Two strikes near Hassakeh targeted ISIS oil equipment and another near Raqqa destroyed vehicles and a building, the task force said in a statement.

In Iraq, attacks near the cities of Beiji, Tal Afar, Fallujah and Mosul hit tactical units and vehicles.

The airstrikes came between Monday morning and Tuesday morning, the task force said.