Reuters reports: Syrian warplanes bombed rebel suburbs of Damascus on Tuesday for the first time in three weeks, in an offensive that opposition activists said showed President Bashar al-Assad no longer feared attack by the United States.
Not seen in action around the capital since before August 21, when hundreds of people were killed in a poison gas attack that Western powers blame on Assad, government jets mounted attacks on three areas, some in support of assaults on the ground.
As world leaders discussed a Russian proposal to confiscate Syria’s chemical weapons and avert U.S. and French action, some of the heaviest fighting was in Barzeh, just north of central Damascus, where residents and opposition activists said air strikes and tank fire supported thrusts by pro-Assad militia.
The Syrian state news agency said troops “inflicted casualties on terrorists” in Barzeh and neighboring Qaboun.
“Even if the Russian initiative fails, the regime has at least bought itself time,” opposition activist Salah Mohammad said. “It seems to be calculating that no strike is coming soon.”
Mohammad said jets had staged three air raids on Barzeh on Tuesday while tanks on the heights of Qasioun mountain and in the government-held city center shelled the area in support of attacks by shabbiha militiamen pushing in to Barzeh from Ish al-Warwar, a district dominated by Assad’s minority Alawite sect.
“The fighting is heavy on that front,” Mohammed said. “The streets are narrow and tanks cannot be deployed.”
A woman living in Damascus said she could see shells hitting Barzeh, apparently fired from Qasioun. Speaking anonymously for fear of reprisals, she said: “Since chemical weapons are a red line, it seems the world has decided it is OK for Assad to destroy Damascus with conventional weapons.” [Continue reading…]