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Infighting near Damascus kills 169 – monitor

BEIRUT, Lebanon – A week of infighting killed nearly 169 people in the rebel-held Eastern Ghouta region outside Syria’s capital Damascus before calm returned on Friday, May 5, a monitor said.

The clashes erupted on April 28 between the powerful Army of Islam faction and the former Al-Qaeda affiliate Fateh al-Sham Front, along with ally Faylaq al-Rahman.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor, said the area was calm Friday but also reported "a continued state of alert on both sides in the areas under their control".

The monitor said 156 fighters had been killed in the clashes, 67 from the Army of Islam and the rest from Fateh al-Sham and allied forces.

The fighting also killed 13 civilians, including two children, and wounded dozens, the monitor said.

The end of the fighting was confirmed by the Army of Islam, which said in a statement it had ended its operation against Fateh al-Sham after having achieved "most of its goals".

Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said the "situation has returned to how it was before," adding that "each side has taken back the areas it lost during the fighting".

He said Fateh al-Sham had been weakened by the fighting, and had leaned heavily on Faylaq al-Sham for support during the clashes.

Fateh al-Sham, previously known as Al-Nusra Front, has a contentious relationship with some rebel groups, but many others have allied with it against the regime, despite its jihadist ideology.

The clashes are not the first time infighting has erupted in Eastern Ghouta, with around 500 rebels dying in weeks of battles that erupted in April 2016 between the Army of Islam and Fateh al-Sham.

The region is also regularly targeted by Syria’s government.

More than 320,000 people have been killed in Syria since the country’s multi-layered conflict erupted with anti-government protests in March 2011. – Rappler.com