Last updated Wednesday, October 22, 2014 11:01am

Smoke rises after what activists said was an air raid by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in the Duma neighbourhood of Damascus July 30, 2013. — Reuters picSmoke rises after what activists said was an air raid by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in the Duma neighbourhood of Damascus July 30, 2013. — Reuters picBEIRUT, Oct 21 — Government warplanes launched strikes on areas southeast of Damascus today after rebels seized key regime positions there, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

“Warplanes carried out four air strikes this morning on the edges of the town of Mleha,” near army positions the rebels captured at the weekend, the Britain-based monitor said.

The rebels had pushed forward in the area after a suicide bomber from the Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Nusra Front detonated an explosive-packed car at a checkpoint between Mleha and the neighbourhood of Jaramana on Saturday.

Opposition fighters went on to take the checkpoint the building of a pharmaceutical company used by government troops as a base.

Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said the southeastern Jaramana suburb of Damascus is a key pro-regime area which would be exposed by any rebel advances in nearby towns and neighbourhoods.

Meanwhile, regime troops pressed their onslaught on the besieged town of Moadamiyet al-Sham southwest of the capital, with fierce clashes between government and rebel troops on the outskirts of the town, the Observatory said.

Thirty-one months into Syria’s conflict, the army is pushing hard to secure the capital by trying to crush rebel-held pockets on the outskirts of Damascus.

Activists in opposition-controlled areas say the tight sieges imposed by the President Bashar al-Assad’s forces have caused severe food shortages and acute malnutrition, especially among children.

More than 115,000 people have been killed in Syria’s war since March 2011, the Observatory says. — AFP