Syrian rebels on the offensive in Damascus
The Syrian rebels have brought the war home to Bashar Assad. A sustained offensive is underway in the Syrian capital of Damascus and Assad has responded by employing helicopter gunships.
You know -- the helicopter gunships supplied by Russia who continues to swear that they're not being used in the civil war.
The fierce clashes, which have raged over the past three days in at least four neighborhoods across the city, were the latest sign that Syria's conflict is fast descending into a civil war that is moving ever closer to the heart of President Bashar Assad's regime. Government forces have already thrown tanks and armored personnel carriers into the fight in the capital, but the use of airpower reflected the intensity and seriousness of the clashes.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and Damascus-based activist Maath al-Shami said the fighting Tuesday was concentrated in Kfar Souseh, Nahr Aisha, Midan and Qadam.
"I can hear cracks of gunfire and some explosions from the direction of Midan," al-Shami told the Associated Press via Skype. "Black smoke is billowing from the area."
Syria's state-run news agency said Tuesday that troops were still chasing "terrorist elements" who had fled from Nahr Aisha to Midan. Syria refers to its opponents as terrorists.
An amateur video showed two armored personnel carriers with heavy machineguns on top along with troops who were said to be advancing in an empty road toward Midan on Tuesday.
Activists have dubbed the fighting in the capital the "Damascus Volcano" in what appears to be an attempt to bring the fighting into Syria's seat of power.
There is very little chance the rebels will be successful in actually overthrowing Assad at this point. But they are certainly getting the army's attention, as well as the attention of Assad's inner circle.
The best case scenario is that this pressure from the rebels causes a military coup and the generals opt for political discussions with the opposition. Considering that the top generals, as well as Assad's entire inner circle are all Alawites -- most of whom are also related to the Syrian president -- this scenario isn't very likely.
But stranger things have happened and the notion of a military coup cannot entirely be dismissed.