“For the most part, fighting in areas of Damascus has not reached the downtown section, though it does spill over there on occasion. That happened last Thursday, when a mortar shell landed in the heart of Damascus, killing six inhabitants.”
“Islamic State has Damascus in its crosshairs,” by Avi Issacharoff, Times of Israel, August 22, 2015:
…For Assad, the eastern outskirts of Damascus are a preferred target. In August 2013, he attacked Ghouta al-Sharqiya, a suburb near Douma, with chemical weapons — an incident that eventually led to an agreement on Syria relinquishing its chemical arsenal. Douma, and mainly Ghouta al-Sharqiya, are considered strongholds of the Islamist opposition group Jaish al-Islam (the Army of Islam), which does not identify with the Islamic State. The regime claims that the Syrian aircraft attacked the headquarters of Jaush al-Islam, but members of the group say that its headquarters are located three kilometers away from the Douma marketplace.
Jaish al-Islam’s presence inside Damascus is not the main problem Assad faces for control of the capital. For the Syrian president, the prime concern is the Islamic State’s advance toward Damascus. The various opposition groups, notably including IS, are slowly closing in on Assad’s home.
IS already has a presence in the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk, adjacent to the city, where it is working against the regime together with activists from Al-Nusra Front (which is fighting against IS in other sectors in Syria, such as the Golan Heights front). For IS, Damascus is the bottom-line goal.
It is not a secret target; IS has promised more than once that it will conquer the capital. The pace of its progress, at least for now, is quite slow. It captured Palmyra several months ago. Raqqa, Islamic State’s capital city, is fairly distant, but its people have succeeded in reaching Bir Qassab, roughly 40 kilometers southeast of Damascus, and for now they have stopped there.
For Assad, the president of “Lesser Syria,” evil will come from the east, since the general direction of IS is clear: to move westward toward the capital and drive the embattled Syrian president away.
For IS, that goal still seems far off. For the most part, fighting in areas of Damascus has not reached the downtown section, though it does spill over there on occasion. That happened last Thursday, when a mortar shell landed in the heart of Damascus, killing six inhabitants.
Islamic State has some thorny logistical, military and economic problems. Its troops are deployed throughout Syria and Iraq to the limits of its capabilities. The stream of volunteers continues, though at a slower place due to firmer action by Turkey against Islamic State. On the other hand, the Syrian army, which has enough troops and arms to protect the capital for now, is receiving massive support from Iran and Hezbollah. In addition, Islamic State is under constant attack from coalition aircraft.
Still, the trend in Syria is clear: Islamic State’s progress toward the capital has not been stopped….