Syrian Military Launches Offensive as Rebels Seize Control of Damascus Suburbs
Syrian forces loyal to dictator Bashar Assad have launched an offensive to regain control of suburbs of the capital city Damascus that were recently seized by rebels moving closer and closer to the center of the regime’s power.
According to the Associated Press, Syrian troops are trying to retake the eastern suburbs of Damascus, storming neighborhoods and attacking armed military defectors and other rebels. The offensive has caused terrorized civilians to flee for their lives; at least three innocent civilians were killed in the fighting.
Six soldiers also died when a roadside bomb exploded near their bus just south of the capital.
The 10-month revolt against the longtime rule of the Assad dynasty began with mostly peaceful protests, but has become increasingly violent recently in the face of the regime’s intransigence. Until recently, the capital has been spared from fighting, but outlying areas have seen anti-regime protests and defectors from Assad’s forces have been increasingly active in the suburbs.
Nearly 100 people have been killed in suburban clashes since Thursday.
The Associated Press also reported a “terrifying massacre” by forces loyal to Assad in the western city of Homs in which more than 30 people, including many women and children, were slaughtered on Thursday.
The mounting death toll in the uprising, which the United Nations says has claimed more than 5,400 lives, has the Arab League and Western nations scrambling to find a way to bring peace to the nation of 20 million people. On Saturday, the Arab League announced it would immediately end its observer mission in Syria pending the outcome of a Sunday meeting in Cairo to discuss the crisis. Arab League president Nabil Elaraby told reporters that he and Qatari Prime Minister Hamad Bin Jasim Bin Jaber al Thani were heading to New York to brief the United Nations Security Council on the latest Arab plan to resolve the Syrian crisis. That plan involves a two-month transition to a unity government in which Assad would relinquish power. The regime has rejected the plan as a violation of national sovereignty.
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