Damascus Is Tense Before Strongest Push Yet by Rebels
As Syrian rebels and government forces clashed on the outskirts of Damascus, explosions rumbled in the distance and warplanes screeched overhead, the rebels appeared to be making their strongest push toward the city since the government repelled an offensive there in July.
A tense calm prevailed downtown, but security checkpoints were proliferating and there were reports that President Bashar al-Assad was readying loyal divisions to defend the city, the capital and heart of his power.
Military analysts warned that it was impossible to know whether a decisive battle for Damascus was beginning, especially as Syrians lost access to the Internet for 53 hours, limiting the flow of information, before it was restored Saturday. But they said that a government fight to defend its core could be the fiercest and most destructive phase yet of the 20-month conflict.
“We’re waiting for the big battle to begin,” said Emile Hokayem, an analyst based in Bahrain for the International Institute for Strategic Studies.