Ahrar al-Sham Islamic rebel fighters stand beside tanks left behind by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad, in Idlib..
(photo credit: KHALIL ASHAWI / REUTERS)
Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime appears to be holding on amid contradictory Saudi reports over whether it told elite Alawite families to abandon Damascus.
A report in the Saudi newspaper Okaz on Sunday quoted Lebanese Social Affairs Minister Rashid Derbas denying an article in the same paper a day earlier quoting unnamed sources claiming that Syrian intelligence told the elite Alawite families to leave the capital within 48 hours for its coastal stronghold of Latakia.
"Reports of President Assad giving his top Alawites orders to flee Damascus are undoubtedly wishful thinking and activist fancy," Joshua Landis, a Syria expert and the director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma, told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday.
"The regime lost an important provincial capital that was surrounded by opposition militias," said Landis adding. "Morale has been damaged, but the regime is neither giving up the ghost nor preparing to abandon Damascus for some coastal Alawite enclave."
The unconfirmed Saudi report could have simply been propaganda by the kingdom against its rival.
Adding doubt to the original Saudi report and others that call into question the stability of the Syrian regime, the Syrian Army reportedly tightened its grip in the capital on Sunday.
"The regime has cut off the last main road for rebels leading out of eastern Ghouta," a rebel stronghold in Damascus, said Syrian Observatory for Human Rights chief Rami Abdel Rahman, AFP reported.
Rahman told AFP that the rebels still had a few ways to access eastern Ghouta, but that they were "very dangerous."