"One opposition figure said a person associated with air force intelligence told him that a plane left Mezze military airfield in Damascus on Wednesday afternoon for Latakia carrying Mr. Assad’s mother, Anisa al-Assad, the widow of the former president Hafez al-Assad; his wife, Asma, and their three children, and other women and children from the family. It is possible the family is gathering for a ceremony at the family mausoleum in Qardaha, above Latakia, to bury Asef Shawkat, the most significant of those who died in the attack on Wednesday." So wait. So one opposition figure told you that someone NOT FROM but ASSOCIATED WITH air force intelligence told him? But I like your last sentence best: "IT IS POSSIBLE the family is gathering." It is possible that Bashshar is now in China on a secret mission and it is possible that he took three potatoes in his brief case for nourishment. It is possible that Neil MacFarquhar always trusts people who tell him things that they heard form people associated with people who really know things.