The head of NATO said on Thursday he thought the government of President
Bashar Assad was nearing collapse, and condemned the use by Assad's
forces of Scud missiles to attack rebels.
think the regime in Damascus is approaching collapse," NATO
Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told reporters after a meeting
with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte at NATO headquarters in Brussels.
"I think now it is only a question of time."
Rasmussen said the Syrian government's use of Scud missiles showed "utter disregard" for the lives of Syrian people.
On Thursday, Russia's deputy foreign minister said that Syrian
rebels are gaining ground and might win, in the starkest such admission from a major
ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
"One must look the facts
in the face," Russia's state-run RIA quoted Mikhail Bogdanov as saying.
"Unfortunately, the victory of the Syrian opposition cannot be ruled
Bogdanov, who is Kremlin's special envoy for Middle East
affairs, said the Syrian government was "losing control of more and more
territory" and that Moscow was preparing plans to evacuate Russian
citizens if necessary.
JPOST VIDEOS THAT MIGHT INTEREST YOU:
Advancing rebels now hold an almost
continuous arc of territory from the east to the southeast of Damascus,
despite fierce army bombardments designed to drive them back.
car bomb killed at least 16 men, women and children in Qatana, a town
about 25 km southwest of Damascus where many soldiers live, activists
and state media said.
The explosion occurred in a residential
area for soldiers in Qatana, which is near several army bases, said Rami
Abdelrahman, head of the pro-opposition Syrian Observatory for Human
He put the death toll as 17, including seven children and two women. State news agency SANA said 16 people had died.
television blamed the blast on "terrorists" - its term for rebels - and
showed footage of soldiers walking by a partly collapsed building, with
rubble and twisted metal on the road.
attack follows three bombs at the Interior Ministry on Wednesday
evening, in which state news agency SANA said five people were killed,
including Abdullah Kayrouz, a member of parliament from the Syrian
Social Nationalist Party.
Apart from gaining territory in the
outskirts of Damascus in recent weeks, rebels have also made hit-and-run
attacks or set off bombs within the capital, often targeting state
security buildings or areas seen as loyal to Assad, such as Jaramana,
where twin bombs killed 34 people in November.Assad using deadlier weapons
launched an offensive on Damascus after a July 18 bombing that killed
four of Assad's closest aides, including his feared brother-in-law Assef
Shawkat, but were later pushed back.
With his back to the wall, Assad is reported to be turning ever deadlier weapons on his adversaries.
NATO officials said on Wednesday that the Syrian military had fired
Scud-style ballistic missiles, which are powerful but not very accurate,
against rebels in recent days.
Human Rights Watch said some
populated areas had been hit by incendiary bombs, containing flammable
materials such as napalm, thermite or white phosphorous, which can set
fire to buildings or cause severe burns and respiratory damage.
British-based Syrian Observatory said war planes were bombing
rebel-held eastern suburbs of Damascus on Thursday and artillery was
hitting Daraya and Moadamiyeh, southwestern areas near the center where
rebels have been fighting for a foothold.
At least 40,000 people
have been killed in Syria's uprising, which started in March 2011 with
street protests which were met with gunfire by Assad's security forces,
and which spiralled into the most enduring and destructive of the Arab
The United States, European powers and Arab states
bestowed their official blessing on Syria's newly-formed opposition
coalition on Wednesday, despite increasing signs of Western unease at
the rise of militant Islamists in the rebel ranks.
nations at "Friends of Syria" talks in Marrakech, Morocco rallied around
a new opposition National Coalition formed last month under moderate
Islamist cleric Mouaz Alkhatib.
Russia, which along with China
has blocked any UN Security Council measures against Assad, criticized
Washington's decision to grant the coalition formal recognition, saying
it appeared to have abandoned any effort to reach a political solution.
Bogdanov's remarks were the clearest sign yet that Russia is preparing for the possible defeat of Assad's government.
are dealing with issues of preparations for an evacuation. We have
mobilization plans and are clarifying where our citizens are located,"
Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>