'Heavy fighting' reported in Damascus neighborhood
The Free Syrian Army appears to be changing its tactics somewhat following several high profile defeats in the countryside.
The FSA has attacked President Assad's forces close to home; a heavily guarded Damscus neighborhood where several regime leaders live.
Heavy fighting erupted early Monday between armed defectors and the Syrian Army in a wealthy and well-protected area of Damascus, according to anti-government activists and residents who described the clashes as the most intense in such a strategic area of the capital since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began a year ago.
t least 18 members of the security forces were killed in the battle, according to the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The official SANA news agency put the toll much lower, saying one member of the security forces had died during a raid on a "hideout of an armed terrorist group" in the wealthy district that also killed two opposition fighters.
The flaring of violence in the capital comes at a time when the Syrian Army appeared to be making headway against rebel enclaves around the country, from the northern city of Idlib to Dara'a in the south, where large protests sparked a national uprising last March.
Residents and activists said it was unusual to see such heavy clashes in a well-defended area of Damascus so close to key security installations and the residences of powerful figures. "It's the first time something happened so close and so loud," said a businesswoman, reached by telephone, who lives a short drive from the center of the fighting and who declined to give her name. "We stayed awake and couldn't sleep till around 5 a.m."
The goal is apparently not to inflict a defeat on Assad's forces, but rather to psychologically alter the perceptions of Damascus residents who might feel the war will never be brought home to them. It will also give heart to those anti-regime opponents in the capital city who have been tentative in expressing their opposition to Assad.