By Mariam Karouny
BEIRUT, July 17 (Reuters) - Rebels will intensify attacks inside the Syrian capital and target sensitive security installations in what they call an operation to "liberate Damascus", a rebel commander said on Tuesday, after three days of fierce fighting in the city.
Colonel Qassem Saadeddine, spokesman of the joint command of the Free Syrian Army inside Syria, told Reuters via Skype that many fighters arrived in Damascus from several provinces 10 days ago to take part in the operation and more would be sent soon.
"There is no going back. The Damascus battle has priority for us. We have started the operation to liberate Damascus," Saadeddine said, adding the rebels had called their operation "Damascus volcano and Syrian earthquake".
For three days rebels and government troops have clashed in the streets of Damascus in the fiercest fighting in the capital since the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad erupted last year, but neither side seems to able to deliver a decisive blow.
"This has been planned for some time now. We sent many groups and fighters to Damascus and its suburbs 10 days ago. We have sent at least 50 groups, each with around 50 fighters," Saadeddine said.
"We will hit security buildings. There is major coordination between all military councils regarding this. We will not stop, there is no return."
A Free Army officer taking part in the fighting in Midan district, the scene of some of the heaviest clashes in the past three days, said the situation was "really excellent".
The officer, who declined to be named, said the fighters were in control of Midan and succeeded in repelling army attempts to break into the neighbourhod.
A video uploaded by opposition activists, aired on al-Jazeera television on Monday, showed men in jeans hiding in sandbagged alleyways, firing rocket-propelled grenades and machineguns.
The rebels said they were bracing for a conflict that could last a month. Although they lacked ammunition, they said they had enough weapons to hold their ground and were seizing more arms from Assad's forces across the country.
Activists' videos showed rebels seizing tanks and armoured vehicles in the city of Talbiseh, north of Homs, on Tuesday.
"Our fighters are already deployed in sensitive areas in Damascus. They went there knowing they will not leave alive. This is the battle, this is our battle," the FSA officer said.
"We are in the heart of Damascus, we have our plans, we even have our withdrawal lines and the lines to evacuate the wounded," he said.
A third officer said: "I cannot give details but all in all the situation is good, the regime started this battle and we will finish it." (Editing by Tim Pearce)
BEFORE YOU GO
09/09/2012 12:25 PM EDT
Syria Blasts Aleppo By Air
09/05/2012 7:50 AM EDT
Syrian City In Flames
08/25/2012 1:45 PM EDT
Lebanese Pilgrim Freed
Hussein Ali Omar, 60, one of 11 Lebanese Shiite pilgrims that Syrian rebels have been holding for three months in Syria, hugs his mother, right, upon arrival at his house in the southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, 2012. Syrian rebels freed Omar on Saturday in a move aimed at easing cross-border tensions after a wave of abductions of Syrian citizens in Lebanon. The Shiite pilgrims were abducted May 22 after crossing into Syria from Turkey on their way to Lebanon. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)
08/24/2012 12:22 PM EDT
This image made from video and released by Shaam News Network and accessed Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012, purports to show the funeral of children in Daraya, near Damascus, Syria. Syrian troops backed by tanks and helicopters broke into a Damascus suburb on Thursday following two days of shelling and intense clashes as part of a widening offensive by President Bashar Assad's forces to seize control of parts of the capital and surrounding areas from rebel fighters, activists said. At least 15 people were killed in the offensive on Daraya, only a few miles (kilometers) southwest of Damascus. (AP Photo/Shaam News Network SNN via AP video)
08/24/2012 11:05 AM EDT
Lebanon Sees Heaviest Clashes In Months
Clashes between Assad supporters and opponents of the Syrian regime killed two people in Lebanon on Friday, the Associated Press reports. 17 people were injured.
The AP gives more context:
Syria was in virtual control of its smaller neighbor for many years, posting tens of thousands of troops in Lebanon, before withdrawing under pressure in 2005. Even without soldiers on the ground, Syria remains influential, and its civil war has stirred longstanding tensions that have lain under Lebanon's surface.
Read more on HuffPost World.
08/24/2012 11:02 AM EDT
A Sunni gunman fires a gun during clashes that erupted between pro and anti-Syrian regime gunmen in the northern port city of Tripoli, Lebanon, Friday, Aug. 24, 2012. The latest round of fighting first erupted on Monday in northern Lebanon and at least 15 have been killed in Tripoli this week and more than 100 have been wounded in fighting that is a spillover from Syria's civil war. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)
08/24/2012 11:00 AM EDT
Refugee Numbers Soar
@ KenRoth :
UN reports 200,000 #Syria refugees, 30,000 in past week alone. Many more internally displaced not counted. http://t.co/BaM6u59j
08/23/2012 2:00 PM EDT
Syrian boy Musataf Alhafiz, 11, who fled his home with his family due to fighting between the Syrian army and the rebels, carries his brother Saif, 9 months, while he and others take refuge at the Bab Al-Salameh border crossing, in hopes of entering one of the refugee camps in Turkey, near the Syrian town of Azaz, Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012. Thousands of Syrians who have been displaced by the country's civil war are struggling to find safe shelter while shelling and airstrikes by government forces continue. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)
08/23/2012 12:09 PM EDT
Heaviest Bombardment This Month
Helicopter gunships shelled Damascus on Wednesday as Syrian security forces intensified their assault on the capital. Activists report that at least 47 people were killed.
"The whole of Damascus is shaking with the sound of shelling," a woman in the neighborhood of Kfar Souseh told Reuters.
Read more on HuffPost World.