Is the Homs massacre a sign that Assad is nearing his end?
It is estimated that more than 400 people were killed in Homs over two days of shelling by the Syrian military. The attack represented the most savage act of repression by President Assad since the revolt against his regime began.
Is it just a coincidence that the attack came on the heels of the UN's failure to approve the Arab League peace plan, or otherwise sanction Syria for its war crimes? Or is there something more basic at work?
Eyewitness Danny Abdul Dayem told the BBC the army was using rockets for the first time, with more than 300 falling on his locality since dawn.
"It's not safe at all, a rocket could land in this house right now," he said
Some rebels fighters have been firing automatic weapons in return, in what our correspondent calls a futile gesture.
The rebels claim that the shelling has hit a field hospital in the Baba Amr district, causing casualties. However, our correspondent says this is impossible to verify.
The facility is treating dozens of people wounded in previous assaults on Homs.
Mr Dayem said only one field hospital with four doctors was still operating in the city, and it was virtually impossible to get additional medication without being shot.
Another anti-government campaigner told the BBC the government was also using helicopters and tanks in the assault.
Activists say at least 15 people have been killed so far on Monday.
Syrian state TV said "terrorist gangs" had blown up buildings in Homs.
And the senior defector from the Syrian army says the military is near collapse:
In his first full-length newspaper interview, General Mustafa al-Sheikh, who has taken refuge in Turkey, gave an apocalyptic insider's view of the state of the regime - despite its attempt to reassert control this weekend.
He said only a third of the army was at combat readiness due to defections or absenteeism, while remaining troops were demoralised, most of its Sunni officers had fled, been arrested, or sidelined, and its equipment was degraded.
"The situation is now very dangerous and threatens to explode across the whole region, like a nuclear reaction," he said.
The failure of President Assad to keep a tight grip even on the towns and suburbs around Damascus, some of which have driven out the army for periods in recent weeks, has led to a reassessment of his forces' unity.
When Gen Sheikh fled over the border from his town in the north of the country in the second half of November, he thought the army could hold out against a vastly outnumbered opposition for a year or more. Now, he said, attacks by the rebels' Free Syrian Army were escalating as the rank and file withered away due to lack of belief in the cause.
This confirms other reports that say that there are only 2 or three army units that Assad trusts to carry out his orders -- one of them commanded by his brother in law. The dreaded Shabiha militias, made up mostly of Alawite fanatics, remains loyal as well but their fighting capabilities leave much to be desired. They are best at shooting down soldiers who don't follow orders to fire on the crowd, as well as sniping away at civilians in city centers. They also make up bands of thugs who move through neighborhoods arresting people with little or no reason and looting houses.
Is the massacre a sign of a desperate Assad? It could be, but more likely it is the sign of a determined dictator to crush resistance to his rule by any means necessary.