Syrian forces loyal to President Bashar Assad continued to attack opposition
fighters on Thursday, in response to the bombing a day earlier that killed
Assad’s brother-in-law, defense minister and a top general.
Observatory for Human Rights said on Thursday that residents feared mass
executions after regime forces stormed the main road of Damascus’s Qaboun
neighborhood using tanks and armed personnel carriers.
used helicopters and heavy artillery against rebel fighters and snipers took up
positions on rooftops on the outskirts of Damascus, the observatory
“Explosions are heard throughout the capital,” it said in an
The observatory also said there were clashes in the
Midan neighborhood including near the Majid mosque and shelling in the Qa’a
area, and that residents also feared a possible military operation in Tadamun
and the Yarmouk camp, which is home to Syria’s largest Palestinian refugee
The camp saw many residents leave, the observatory
On Thursday afternoon, the observatory reported that members of the
Kurdish Popular Defense Committees had carried out a nonviolent takeover of the
city of Kobani (Ein al-Arab) in Aleppo province.
“Members of the regime’s
security forces retreated out of all their stations and posts in the city after
they were warned by the committees. This makes Kobani the first city to be freed
from the regime’s grip without any violence,” the observatory said.
regime has gone mad,” Rima Flaihan, the spokeswoman for the Local Coordination
Committees in Syria, said in a telephone interview from Jordan.
regime is in a horrid state of savagery, seeking revenge for the killings of the
At least 77 people were killed across Syria on
Thursday, including 38 in Damascus and its suburbs, the Local Coordination
Committees said in an e-mail.
It said at least 130 people were killed in
the shelling of a funeral on Wednesday in the Sayyeda Zainab area on the
outskirts of Damascus.
The Local Coordination Committees also posted a
video to its Facebook page that it said showed regime forces shelling Damascus
suburbs with mortars.
Also on Thursday, Syrian state television warned
citizens that gunmen were planning to attack people in the capital using
military uniforms as disguises.
“Armed men in Tadamun, Midan, Qa’a and
Nahr Aisha are wearing military uniforms with the insignia of the Republican
Guard. This confirms they are planning to commit crimes and attack people,
exploiting the trust of citizens in our courageous armed forces,” Syria’s
official channel said in a message flashed across the screen.
state news agency, SANA, warned that a Qatari security company was making models
of Syrian cities and using them to create fake videos “in a move that is aimed
at misleading public opinion about Syria.”
Citing “special sources,” SANA
said the unnamed company had manufactured models “analogous to official
buildings and squares in Damascus, Aleppo and Latakia in the Zoubareh region
SANA also reported that fake videos of Assad were circulating
on social media sites.
About 20,000 Syrians had traveled across the main
border point into Lebanon over the past 24 hours, a Lebanese security source
working at the border said.
The number of Syrians, many of them
day-workers, who travel through the official Masnaa border crossing usually
hovers around 5,000 per day, the source said.
Lebanese Social Affairs
Minister Wael Abu-Faour did not comment on the total number of Syrians who had
crossed but said that 8,500 Syrian refugees from Damascus made the trip in the
past 24 hours.
Abu-Faour told journalists that the Lebanese government
would open school buildings for refugees to live in and had received offers of
help from Arab countries.
On Thursday evening, Syrian state television
aired footage of Assad swearing in new Defense Minister Fahad Jassim al-Freij,
the first images of the president since Wednesday’s bombing.
television did not say where or when the footage was filmed, but it will allay
suspicions that Assad was killed in the attack.
Assad’s TV appearance
came after opposition sources and a Western diplomat said earlier on Thursday
that the president was in the coastal city of Latakia, directing a response to
Wednesday’s assassination of three of his top lieutenants.
information is that he is at his palace in Latakia and that he may have been
there for days,” said a senior opposition figure, who declined to be
The palace, which Assad has used before to conduct official
business, is located in hills near the city, Syria’s main port.
diplomat, who is following events in Syria, said, “Everyone is looking now at
how well Assad can maintain the command structure. The killings yesterday were a
huge blow, but not fatal.”
However, a Syrian official source told
Lebanon’s As-Safir daily on Thursday that statements suggesting that Assad had
left Damascus were only rumors. That source claimed Assad remained in his office
in the capital.
Also on Thursday, a senior aide to Russian President
Vladimir Putin said Moscow had not discussed the possibility of taking in
Putin had not discussed where Assad might go if he left Syria in
talks with Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, nor in a telephone
conversation with US President Barack Obama on Wednesday, foreign policy adviser
Yuri Ushakov said.
Asked whether Assad could come to Russia, Ushakov
said, “I don’t know; at least I have not heard about this.”
China drew Western ire after both countries vetoed a Western-backed UN Security
Council resolution later on Thursday that threatened Syrian authorities with
sanctions if they did not stop using heavy weapons against the uprising and
withdraw troops from towns and cities.
British Foreign Secretary William
Hague attacked the vetoes as “inexcusable and indefensible.”
came for the time to turn agreement that they have supported into action to end
the violence, they stood aside from that... They have turned their back on the
people of Syria in their darkest hour,” he told reporters in London.
believe Russia and China will pay a serious price in the Middle East
diplomatically and politically for taking this position.
will conclude that they have put national interest ahead of the lives and the
rights of millions of Syrians,” Hague added.
The White House called the
vetos “regrettable and highly unfortunate,” while international mediator Kofi
Annan expressed his disappointment at the move.
“The joint special envoy
for Syria, Kofi Annan, is disappointed that at this critical stage the UN
Security Council could not unite and take the strong and concerted action he had
urged and hoped for. He believes that the voice of the council is much more
powerful when its members act as one,” his spokesman Ahmad Fawzi
China’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Thursday that it
condemned the bombing in Syria.
“China is deeply worried about the rising
tensions in Syria. China once again called on all related parties in Syria to
cease fire immediately,” the statement, which did not mention the UN veto,
As fighting intensified in Syria, Lt.-Col. (res.)
Mordechai Kedar of Bar-Ilan University’s Begin Sadat Center for
Strategic Studies told The Jerusalem Post that post-Assad Syria would likely
split into several states, based on ethnic divisions.
The Druse, who
mostly live in the south of the country near the Golan; the Alawites, who
represent around 10 percent of the population and mostly live in the Ansariya
mountains; and the Kurds, who live in the north, could all seek to organize
along “tribal lines,” he said.
“It was very hard to unify [Syria’s ethnic
groups] as a single state under a dictatorship, so under a fragile regime the
country won’t be able to hold itself together,” Kedar said.
of the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University said that
although Wednesday’s bombing in Damascus was “undoubtedly a success” for the
Syrian opposition, it would likely not result in a swift fall of the Assad
Brom said that unlike Egypt – where there had been an isolated
group around president Hosni Mubarak, who stepped down after 18 days of protests
– in Syria the Assad regime represented a larger sector of the population,
including the Alawites and other non-Sunni minorities.
“If Syria loses
control of areas near the Golan, there could be a danger that groups affiliated
to al-Qaida could take advantage of the situation and act against Israel,” Brom
said, noting that al-Qaida had operatives among the Syrian rebels.