THE GUARDIAN, REUTERS, AFP
Heavy fighting continues between Syrian rebels and government security forces in Damascus on Thursday, as the country reels from yesterday's bombing that killed three top regime military officials, including President Bashar al-Assad's brother-in-law. The attack has plunged Syria into perhaps its deepest state of uncertainty since the uprising began last year, with Assad's whereabouts unclear and reports from activists of violence engulfing the Syrian capital.
Reuters reports that Damascus residents have witnessed rebels fighting pro-regime army forces within sight of the presidential palace and government headquarters. Residents also say that several neighborhoods are being heavily shelled by the government forces, and that some are arming themselves. The following amateur video purportedly shows rebel forces overtaking government security posts in the Syrian capital.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told the AFP that hundreds of Damascus residents were fleeing the clashes as the military gave them two days to leave. The Observatory also said that 214 people were killed across Syria on Wednesday, including 124 civilians.
Assad has not made any public apperances since Wednesday's bombing, fueling speculation on his whereabouts (Latakia is Syria's main Mediterranean port).
Russia Today, citing As-Safir, citing "official Syrian sources": Assad "is in his Damascus office and proceeding with work as usual." Liz Sly (@LizSly) July 19, 2012
The Guardian reports that Major General Robert Mood, the head of the United Nations monitoring mission in Syria, announced his departure from the country. "It pains me to say, but we are not on the track for peace in Syria and the escalations we have witnessed in Damascus over the past few days is a testimony to that," he said in a statement. He added that "there is no lasting hope in the military solution."
A U.N. Security Council vote is scheduled for later today on a United Kingdom drafted resolution that threatens Syria with harsher sanctions under chapter 7 of the U.N. charter, which authoritizes military intervention. Russia has warned it will veto the resolution.