Syrian Forces Encroach On Damascus With Raids In Suburbs
"News reports said loyalist forces were conducting house-to-house searches in the Daraya neighborhood, even though rebel forces had apparently withdrawn from the area. The Local Coordination Committees, an opposition network in Syria, said 15 people had been killed by rocket fire, including a mother and two children, although the figures could not be immediately verified. By late morning, the group said 73 people had been killed so far, mainly in the suburbs of Damascus.
The reported attacks came after gunfire and shelling on Wednesday when the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition group in Britain with contacts in Syria, said the government raid on Kfar Sousa — also with tanks backed by infantry soldiers — left at least 24 people dead. In the Damascus neighborhood of Qaboun, activists said, Syrian forces executed dozens of others. On Thursday, the Syrian Observatory said, government forces had drawn up tanks at checkpoints ringing Daraya to fire into the neighborhood, which was also under attack from Qassioun Mountain, overlooking Damascus"
Regime troops faced little resistance in their attacks on Daraya and other towns surrounding Damascus, as rebel forces stepped aside for their quick strikes, prepared to return once government forces cleared out. The Assad government cannot permanently control many parts of Syria anymore, so it has employed a strategy of overwhelming and clearing out opposition areas in short and bloody bursts, and then moving on. According to the New York Times, opposition fighters call these "hit and run" attacks. As Reuters reports:
"Assad's military had driven insurgents from most of the areas they seized in and around the capital after a bomb killed four top security officials on July 18. But rebels have crept back, regrouping without taking on the army in pitched battles."
With the death toll in Syria rising at an increasing rate, and the Assad regime showing more of a willingness to deploy military weapons against its civilian population, the rest of the world is paying closer attention. Some of the opposition's most ardent supporters, such as the U.S., Britain and Turkey, are dropping stronger hints at the possibility of an international intervention without the approval of the United Nations Security Council, which has been stymied by China and Russia.
As The Guardian reports, British Prime Minister David Cameron backed up President Obama's message to the Assad regime that the use of chemical weapons would mean the crossing of a "red line" with "enormous consequences", and both leaders agreed to step up their support for the opposition. Also, according to Reuters, U.S. and Turkish officials met Thursday in Ankara and discussed setting up a buffer zone along the Turkey-Syria border, as Turkey is concerned about the involvement of Kurdish militants in the Syrian conflict, which it blames on the regime. France also spoke for the first time Thursday of an international mission in Syria outside of the Security Council.
Information from Syria is often unreliable, as the government has effectively closed the country off from international journalists, forcing those wishing to cover it to take greater risks in navigating a country without law enforcement. The family of American freelance journalist Austin Tice, who had been reporting from Syria, said Thursday he had not been in touch for over a week and that they were concerned for his safety, according to the Washington Post.
Read more of Neon Tommy's coverage of Syria here.
Reach Executive Producer Matt Pressberg here.