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.

 

Tensions mount as Turkey shells northern Syria again

Twenty nations join major military exercise in Saudi Arabia

Hariri in rare visit to Beirut on 11th anniversary of his father’s assassination

Iran threatens to take action against Saudi intervention in Syria

On Valentine's Day, love survives war in Syria

Egypt annuls jail sentence for policeman accused of protester's shooting

Syria opposition slams Russia, criticizes truce deal

Saudi Patriots knock down Huthi Scud missiles

Turkey strikes in Syria trigger alarm in Washington

Sadr loses patience with stalled progress on Iraq reform package

Russia sees ‘new Cold War’ amid strains with West

Turkey, Saudi Arabia could launch anti-ISIS ground operation in Syria

French PM warns major terrorist attacks will hit Europe again

Assad vows to retake whole of Syria ‘while negotiating’

Pope mends 1,000-year-old rift with Russian Patriarch

Saudi Foreign Minister: No Assad in the future, period!

Israel denies dropping controversial Brazil envoy pick

Yemen loyalist forces advance towards Sanaa

Italian PM warns Egypt friendship on the line

Tunisia prepares for possible intervention in Libya

UAE to deploy jets, commandos in anti-IS campaign

100,000 refugees in Syria border camps near Turkey

Greece given three-month ultimatum to remedy border ‘deficiencies’

Ankara hails world powers' Syria ceasefire plan

Five Yemen police killed in ‘Qaeda’ attack in Aden

Kuwait to finalise Eurofighter jet deal with Italy

S.Sudan president names arch-rival his deputy

Berlin film fest competition kicks off with Arab film

War-torn Syria gears towards 'cessation of hostilities'

Iraqi PM urges Kurdistan to drop any plans for independence

Russia accuses US planes of hitting Aleppo

Anti-ISIS coalition looks to decisive new phase

Turkey, Israel open new normalisation talks

Assault on Aleppo displaces tens of thousands

Moroccan King inaugurates Aquaculture Farm in Oued Ed-dahab

Turkish forces end operation in southern town

NATO launches unprecedented Aegean migrant naval mission

Erdogan threatens to send millions of refugees to EU

Suspected PKK militants attack two Turkey pro-govt newspapers

Train derails in Egypt’s Bani Sueif province

Iranians mark 37 years since Islamic revolution

Moscow ready to discuss modalities of ceasefire in Syria

Egypt hires UK firm to review Sharm security

Tunisia makes $500 million from assets of ousted president

Turkey dismisses pressure to open borders as 'hypocritical'