DAMASCUS, Jan. 3 (Xinhua) -- The Syrian army sent reinforcements on Wednesday to launch a major counter-offensive against the rebels in the Eastern Ghouta countryside of the capital Damascus, a military source told Xinhua.
The military backup forces are amassing near the city of Harasta to unleash a counter-attack against the al-Qaida-linked groups of the Levant Liberation Committee (LLC) and the allied Failaq al-Rahman and push them back from the military-run Vehicle Base in Harasta, the source said on condition of anonymity.
Tanks were seen Wednesday heading toward Harasta from Damascus.
The aim behind the counter-offensive is to defeat the al-Qaida affiliates and secure the surrounding of the base, which was attacked by the rebels late last month.
The Syrian warplanes are heavily striking the rebel positions near the facility to pave the way for the ground forces to storm the area.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 15 airstrikes targeted areas in Harasta and its surrounding on Wednesday amid intense battles between the government forces and the ultra-radical rebels.
The UK-based watchdog group said 44 government soldiers, including six officers, have been killed in the battles as well as 47 militants.
During the offensive, the militants besieged the base and captured parts of it, according to activists' reports.
The rebels have also captured areas between Harasta and Arbeen neighborhood, cutting the government forces' supply routes to the base.
The base is the largest military facility in the Eastern Ghouta region, stretching from Harasta to Arbeen.
The base contains large numbers of soldiers, including Republican Guards, as well as big weapon depots.
During the war, the base has become a major operation center and supply facility to the Syrian forces inside the Eastern Ghouta region, which contains many towns and neighborhoods.