23 Dec, 2015
Most of the pre-conflict population has fled the rebel-held neighborhood of Jobar in the eastern suburb of Ghouta in Damascus, while fighting between the Syrian army and rebel groups has devastated the suburb over the past years.
Before the conflict in Syria erupted in 2011, the neighborhood was home to some 300,000 residents, most of whom were Sunni Muslims. The suburb contained a number of ancient landmarks, most notably the Green Synagogue, the oldest Jewish synagogue in the world. It also contained the Grand Jobar Mosque in addition to the tomb of the Prophet Elijah. Jobar also housed ancient baths that were built during Ottoman times.
Now totally destroyed, as can be seen in RT’s exclusive drone footage, Jobar is just one of the many testaments to the ongoing brutality and civilian suffering which has taken place during the Syrian war. The rebels who are holed up in Jobar and moving via underground tunnels don’t belong to any single group, the Syrian military told RT’s Murad Gazdiev.
“Streets and even individual houses, we are told, are held by different outfits, Islamist groups of various flavors,” Gazdiev said. “What complicates the effort to drive them out is the cramped space … and the contest continues every day.”
The area carries high strategic importance as it is located next to the Abbasid Square roundabout that leads to the center of Damascus. Controlling Jobar will also secure the main road leading to the rebel-held eastern Ghouta suburb of Damascus.
The Syrian army has attempted on several occasions to retake Jobar with the latest effort beginning in October. The area has been the focus of heavy aerial bombardments by government forces as the army tries to fully secure the area.
What complicates the situation even further is the vast network of underground tunnels used by the rebels stretching hundreds kilometers underground. Sporadic fighting continues even inside the seemingly secured perimeter, as the army tries to distance armed fighters as far from the capital as possible.