Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Update from Damascus: Akram is back

Akram, the Angry Arab correspondent in Syria, sent me this report:

"After several days of fierce confrontations between the Syrian army and the rebels in Damascus' southern suburbs, the fighting has moved to the northern and eastern parts of the city. The latest clashes in Damascus started at 1:30 on Sunday morning, when 7 to 8 mortar shells hit the vicinity of Abassyieen Stadium, which hosts an air force intelligence branch and some army soldiers, in an operation adopted by a group called Ansar Al-Islam (Islam Supporters) who said the offense was retaliation to Darayia martyrs. This shelling, that caused the killing of 3 civilians who were present in Abassyieen Square, was followed by violent clashes in the area that lasted for more than one hour.

The day went relatively calm with some sporadic far bombardment explosions. But that was, suddenly, ended, at 7:30 on Monday morning, when the rebels launched what seemed to be a coordinated attack against the security check points deployed in Abassyieen and Jobar using automatic weapons and mortar shells that some of them hit the nearby Bab Touma, Zablatany and Kassa'a quarters without causing civilian casualties. The Syrian army responded by violent shelling of Jobar, Kaboun, Zamalka and Harasta and large clouds of dark smoke be seen over the areas hit by the shelling. A helicopter gunship was hovering at an unusual low altitude and targeting heavily these quarters with its machinegun before being downed over Kaboun at about 11 AM. The heavy shelling lasted until the evening. And for the first time since the Syrian uprising erupted, Damascus witnessed a fighter jet flying for half an hour over the city and its outskirts.

The movement in Abassyieen quarter was almost not-existent. Many residents preferred to stay at home and follow the developments through TV, by phone or from the balconies. The bakery of the quarter overcrowded and ambulances were rushing to transport the wounded to the nearby Abassyieen Medical Complex. Meanwhile, the traffic in the surrounding areas down to Bab Touma, Bab Sharqi has been much less than what should to be in a normal working day.

The sole official and pro-regime media coverage of this long day was one sentence of 8 words: A helicopter has fallen near Al-Ghufran Mosque in Al-Qaboun area in Damascus. For the time being, the state-run news agency Sana was busy in covering the activities of the Syrian PM and the statements of his National Reconciliation clown during his visit to Teheran, while Addounia TV, devoted half an hour of its air time to refute the rumors about the defection of the Syrian vice-president Farouk Al-Shara'a, while the recent Damascus confrontations haven't appear in its news bulletins.

Jaramana, a Damascus suburb with a majority of Druze and Christians, is witnessing a grave escalation. On Monday night, two men were assassinated with explosives implanted in their cars. During their funeral on Tuesday afternoon, a car bomb exploded killing 12 people and injured 48 others (today, the number of victims rose to 27). This terrorist attack is latest of less deadly incidents that hit the town in the past two months. Its seriousness doesn't stem from the elevated number of victims, but also from the fact that Jaramana represents a religious variety and that its Druze community hasn't took part in the struggle (please read my previous posts about Jaramana). Today the situation looks very tense, while the elders and civil bodies (Arabic) are working hard to calm the feelings of the residents and prevent a possible outbreak of sectarian strife."