Sun Feb 10, 2013, 09:35 PM
farminator3000 (2,117 posts)
Damascus on Edge as War Seeps into Syrian Capital (Monday Reuters update to NYT article)
Last edited Mon Feb 11, 2013, 11:36 AM - Edit history (3)
Source: NY Times
Soldiers have swept through city neighborhoods, making arrests ahead of a threatened rebel advance downtown, even as opposition fighters edge past the city limits, carrying mortars and shelling security buildings. Fighter jets that pounded the suburbs for months have begun to strike Jobar, an outlying neighborhood of Damascus proper, creating the disturbing spectacle of a government’s bombing its own capital.
In between, Damascus, with its walled Old City, grand diagonal avenues and crowded working-class districts, has remained the eye of the storm. People keep going to work, even as electric service grows sporadic and groceries dwindle, even as the road to the airport is often cut off by fighting outside the city, and even as smoke from artillery and airstrikes in suburbs becomes a regular feature on the horizon.
On a recent journey along the front line, a traveler saw soldiers speaking harshly to residents at checkpoints outside Yarmouk Camp, a long-contested area east of Qadam that is home to both Syrians and Palestinian refugees, who have lived there for decades. Rebels took over much of the camp in December, drawing government airstrikes that drove out most residents. But about 20 percent of those people appear to have returned, in part, they said, because the government had attacked another refugee camp where they had taken shelter.
Reports of rebel strikes on Wednesday on such a central landmark (Abassiyeen Square), which appeared to be backed up by videos showing black smoke pouring across the plaza, raised new fears in the capital. The government closed the roads around the square, causing traffic jams deep into downtown, and sent dozens of security men to protect the Parliament building. Terrified residents of the central Old City closed their shops.
Read more: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/11/world/middleeast/syrian-war-closes-in-on-the-heart-of-damascus.html
Amid a conflict that has taken more than 60,000 lives in nearly two years, the videos offer a rare glimpse of fighters seizing a moment of fun. In some ways, the two sets of soldiers look much alike, some bearded, some not, with the scruffy look of participants in an exhausting battle.
But in a social media world starkly divided between supporters and opponents of Mr. Assad, the videos provoke sharply political reactions.
“The superficial production and staunchly simplistic lyrics alone are designed to appeal to the I.Q. of a dirty toothbrush,” one blogger wrote of the government soldiers. “Not cool, insensitive foot-soldiers of the authoritarian regime. Just. Not. Cool.”
Syria rebels seize dam, blast on Turkish border
(Reuters) - Rebels have captured Syria's biggest hydro-electric dam and battled army tank units near the center of Damascus, activists said as the opposition renewed an offer on Monday to negotiate the departure of President Bashar al-Assad.
On the Turkish border, nine people were killed when a car arriving from rebel-held territory in northwestern Syria blew up at the Reyhanli frontier crossing; Turkish officials said it was unclear whether the blast was a suicide attack or an accident.
The dam was protected by an artillery battery and many intelligence units. The rebels moved on them in a lightning offensive yesterday, overrunning their positions and capturing scores of personnel," said Abu Ziad Teif, an opposition activist in contact with rebels in the area.
edit: two more Reuters quotes
A woman who lives in the western neighborhood of Mezze added that residents there were also beginning to feel the war getting near: "The situation is getting very tough," she said. "For the first time we've been hearing mortars fall so close."
Also in Cairo, Assad's former prime minister Riad Hijab met the Egyptian foreign minister. Quoted by Egyptian news agency MENA, Hijab, the most senior government defector from Damascus, said: "There is no solution to the Syrian crisis except by the departure of Bashar al-Assad.
edit: forgot link-
edit #most recent: more stuff-
• Opposition leader Moaz al-Khatib said he was willing to hold talks with representatives of President Bashar al-Assad's government in rebel-held areas of northern Syria after he met international envoy Lakhdar Brahimi in Cairo. The aim of the talks would be to find a way for Assad to leave power with the "minimum of bloodshed and destruction", Khatib said in a statement published on his Facebook page. It read:
If the regime is so concerned about sovereignty and does not want to venture out of Syrian territories, then there is a suitable solution, which is the liberated land in northern Syria. There is an important question. Will the regime agree to leave with the minimum of blood and destruction?
Khatib also said the regime missed a "rare opportunity" by not agreeing to release women prisoners by a deadline he had set for Sunday, but that he was compelled morally to continue to try to negotiate a peaceful exit for Assad.
• Syria's deputy foreign minister Faisal Mekdad said the opposition could attend the government's own dialogue initiative in Damascus without setting preconditions and stressed that President Assad should "preside over the resolution of the crisis". In a TV interview Mekdad suggested the Syrian opposition's western backers were turning to political dialogue because armed resistance had failed.
• The number of Syrian refugees has reached almost 800,000, according to the latest figures from the UN. Its refugee agency said registered refugees and individuals awaiting registration stood at 792,118 on 7 February. The number of refugees rose by a quarter in the last month alone, according to spokesman Adrian Edwards.
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