First Published: 2012-11-07

 

Rebels venture into Assad den as they step attacks on Damascus

 

Shelling of mainly Alawite Mazzeh 86 district comes one day after car bomb hit another Alawite area in suburb of Qudsaya, as rebels increasingly target Assad's supporters.

 

Middle East Online

Syria’s sectarian divide widens

DAMASCUS - Syrian rebels shelled a key area of Damascus home to President Bashar al-Assad's Alawite minority, embassies and government buildings on Wednesday, as they stepped up attacks on the capital.

Britain, meanwhile, said it was to open talks with the rebels in a bid to help end the violence, as the main opposition Syrian National Council said it hoped resolving the conflict would top re-elected US President Barack Obama's agenda.

The shelling of the mainly Alawite Mazzeh 86 district came a day after a car bomb hit another Alawite area in the suburb of Qudsaya, as rebels increasingly target Assad's supporters in the minority, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.

Sectarian divides are a key factor in the Syrian uprising, with many in the country's Sunni Muslim majority frustrated at more than 40 years of Alawite-dominated rule.

State news agency SANA reported that the shelling had hit a home and mini-bus carrying passengers in Mazzeh 86, which lies beneath Assad's hilltop presidential palace, killing at least three civilians.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based watchdog that relies on a network of activists and medics on the ground, confirmed the shelling and said three civilians were killed and 12 wounded.

It has previously reported a car bombing in Qudsaya on Tuesday that killed 19 people and another on Monday in Mazzeh, likewise in the capital, that left 13 dead.

Rebel fighters were also clashing with pro-regime Palestinian forces in the southern Hajar al-Aswad district and the nearby Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmuk, the Observatory said, as the area becomes another focal point of violence.

Home to some 148,000 residents, the camp has been the scene of fierce fighting between rebels and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC), an ally of Assad.

Pro-regime newspaper Al-Watan said government forces had launched an offensive on the area of Tadamun near the camp to "liberate civilians and hostages" held by the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) and protect the Palestinians.

A car bomb also exploded overnight in the southern Qadam neighbourhood, causing at least one death, after violence on Tuesday left a total of 150 dead, including 79 civilians, the Observatory said.

British Prime Minister David Cameron's office said the government had authorised officials to have contacts with military representatives of the opposition, although government sources stressed the initiative was about political dialogue, not providing weapons.

Media reports said Britain's envoy to the Syrian opposition, John Wilkes, would arrange meetings in third countries to initiate talks with the rebels.

British officials said they would make clear to the Syrian groups that they must respect human rights, after a video last week purported to show rebel forces beating and executing pro-regime fighters.

Cameron himself toured a desert refugee camp for Syrians in northern Jordan on Wednesday. "I am hearing appalling stories about what has happened inside Syria so one of the first things I want to talk to Barack about is how we must do more to try and solve this crisis," he said.

As the opposition Syrian National Council met in the Qatari capital Doha for talks, leading SNC member Radwan Ziadeh said Obama should work to end the crisis following his re-election.

"We hope President Obama places Syria among the priorities in his foreign policy to put an end to the crisis and achieve the aspirations of the Syrian people to choose their own government and their own president, just like the American people did," Ziadeh said.

The US has voiced increasing frustration with the SNC for not fully representing the opposition and the talks in Qatar will see an initiative put forward to form a new government-in-exile to represent the opposition.

Rights groups say more than 36,000 people have died since the uprising against Assad's regime erupted in March 2011, first as a protest movement inspired by the Arab Spring and then an armed rebellion.

 

Netanyahu warns Congress: Nuclear deal will free Iran to develop weapons

Two killed in Cairo bomb blast

US controlling ‘moderate’ Syrian rebels

Yemen leader proposes reconciliation talks to be moved to Saudi

South Sudan's oil wells pose environmental hazard

Bottle of juice vs. outspoken critic of Israel domestic policies

UN approves sanctions regime for South Sudan

Arab states to mull creation of joint force against ‘Islamic State’

Libya tit-for-tat airstrikes target airport, oil terminal

Iran holds memorial service for ‘Afghan volunteers’ killed in Syria

South Sudan general accused of abducting child soldiers

Netanyahu takes fight over Iran nuclear ambitions to Congress

UN delegation meets Aleppo governor to push ‘freeze’ plan

Jihadists use urban warfare to slow Tirkit adavance

Libya warplanes strike militia-controlled airport

Egypt court cancels call for parliamentary elections in March

Saudi diplomat kidnapped by Qaeda in Yemen released

Obama lashes out at Netanyahu over Iran

Tunisia blogger jailed for 6 months for defaming army

Erdogan in Riyadh as Saudi Arabia seeks to re-energise foreign policy

Palestinians prepare to lodge first war crimes complaint against Israel

Turkey probes soldier for failure to resist ‘Islamic State’

US envoy to Yemen throws support behind President Hadi

Libya recognized parliament names Haftar as chief of armed forces

How Islamic is ‘Islamic State’?

Separate battles rage on against IS in key border area

Reconciliation with Iran proves far from simple for Hamas

Before UN rights panel, Kerry delivers vigorous defense of Israel

Turkey explores for oil in Iraqi Kurdistan

Two killed in Egypt bomb blast

Egypt leader visits Saudi Arabia

Syria opposition hails France's anti-Assad ‘exemplary’ stance

Police, anti-shale gas protesters clash in Algeria

Baghdad launches military operation to retake Tikrit

Netanyahu puts US-Israel ties under strain

First Iran flight lands in Huthi-held Yemen capital

Egypt President meets Saudi King Salman for talks on bilateral ties

Netanyahu flies to Washington to press case against Iran nuclear deal

Court ruling may force delay of Egypt parliamentary elections

Yemen separatists suspend participation in UN-sponsored talks

Scores dead as car bombs target crowded market in Iraq capital

Iran shrugs off Netanyahu bid to abort nuclear deal

Egypt lists Hamas as terrorist organisation

Jailed Kurdish leader calls on followers to lay down arms

Dozens dead as Qaeda takes strategic rebel base in Syria