BEIRUT (AP) - Activists say heavy clashes between Syrian troops and rebels trying to break a government siege in the suburbs of Damascus have killed at least 160 fighters since Friday.
Forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad have laid siege for months to rebel strongholds east of Damascus, preventing food, clean water, medicine and other supplies from entering in a bid to crush resistance. The tactic has helped government troops capture a string of rebel-held areas over the past month on the doorstep of the capital.
The government push around Damascus has coincided with gains by Assad's forces around the northern city of Aleppo as well as a new offensive in a rugged region north of Damascus.
The recent victories have shifted the momentum of the conflict in Assad's favor and given the Syrian leader greater leverage in in proposed peace talks that the U.S. and Russia are trying to convene to end the civil war.