Annan Takes Syrian Peace Plan To Moscow, As Battles Arrive In Central Damascus
THE GUARDIAN, REUTERS, BBC, ZAMAT
DAMASCUS - Violent clashes between government forces and rebels continued in the Syrian capital for the third day on Tuesday, as U.N. special envoy Kofi Annan visits Moscow to promote a peace plan.
Heavy clashes taking place in new areas right in the middle of #Damascus. The city is empty compared to days before these clashes. #Syria— Sami al-Hamwi (@HamaEcho) July 17, 2012
Based on information from activists and witnesses on the ground, Reuters reports that rebels are fighting security forces in the southern Midan district of Damascus, using barricades, rocket propelled grenades and machine guns. Residents told Reuters that snipers were being deployed on rooftops and that artillery hit the opposition area of Tadamun. The violent clashes show that the uprising is slowly chipping away at President Assad's power, opposition activists told Reuters.
Reliable source that more than 200 Assad soldiers showed up between injured and dead at military hospitals in Damascus past 48h.— Shakeeb Al-Jabri (@LeShaque) July 17, 2012
FSA destroy a security forces bus in Midan neighbourhood of #Damascus#Syria">twitter.com/HamaEcho/statu…— Sami al-Hamwi (@HamaEcho) July 17, 2012FSA destroy a security forces bus in Midan neighbourhood of #Damascus #Syria http://t.co/uYXwCwDj— (@ ) 1342516972
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov indicated that Moscow's position would not change. The Russian government opposes any United Nations Security Council action against President Assad.
The Guardian Middle East Live Blog also reported intensifying violence in Damascus with an interactive map. A Dutch reporter in the Syrian capital witnessed explosions in another district, and activist videos showed tanks being deployed, although it was impossible to determine where exactly.
Explosions and smoke over Tadamun, Damascus. UN team going (with us) to Midan did not leave. Looking at other options now. #Syria— Sander van Hoorn (@svhoorn) July 17, 2012
In another opposition activist video, gunfire can be heard in another neighborhood of the Syrian capital.
Former Syrian ambassador to Iraq Nawaf Fares, who recently defected, told the BBC in Qatar on Monday that he wouldn't rule out the use of chemical weapons by President Assad, calling him "a wounded wolf and cornered."
"There is information, unconfirmed information of course, that chemical weapons have been used partially in the city of Homs," he told the BBC. Fares also made the surprising claim the Sunni Muslims of Al Qaeda were helping the Alawite dominated regime to terrorize the Syrian population.
Also on Monday, Turkish daily Zaman reported that 525 Syrians had fled into Turkey, including a general and several military officers.